Monday, July 30, 2007

Youth and identity theft

California Assemblymember Mary Hayashi recently held an identity theft workshop in Pleasanton following a credit card scam at two grocery stores in her district.

[Joanne McNabb, chief of the California Office of Privacy Protection] touched on the different things thieves use identities for, some of which included using existing bank account funds, opening new bank accounts, obtaining medical services, employment and even trading the information for narcotics. She said the most common age group affected by ID theft is young adults aged 18-24. Last year 8.4 million adults, including 1 million Californians, had their identities stolen at an average cost of $531 per victim.

Some of the prevention techniques include: never giving out personal information unless you initiate contact, shredding all bills, bank statements, catalog covers, pre-approved credit card offers and checking your credit report regularly. Everyone is entitled to one free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus each year.

It's striking how young the majority of identity theft victims are. Expert Todd Davis explains this phenomenon:

Young people have a lot of earning potential, so they can be issued more credit because they have more time to pay it back...They are not as aware of their credit and credit reports and the thieves know that. And they are using social networking sites, where they aren't as cautious about sharing personal information.

As the NY Times explains, you're never too young to have your identity stolen.

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