Identity theft is harder on youth


By now, we've all heard about identity theft. But some of us are more vulnerable to the crime than others.

Of those age 18 and older, people ages 25 to 34 are the most at risk of having personal information compromised, according to Javelin Strategy and Research's 2006 Identity Fraud Survey..

Although previous studies have identified this phenomenon, Javelin's is one of the largest ID theft surveys to date.

Why are young adults more at risk? Javelin reasons that a mobile lifestyle creates more opportunity for identity theft.

On top of that, said ID theft experts, most GenXers aren't practiced in safeguarding personal information.

"Young people tend to be a little more open and forthcoming with their information," said Melodi Gates, chief information security officer for Qwest Communications.

"They often don't understand the value of their personal information," she said.

That information includes your Social Security number, account passwords and credit card numbers, all of which can aid criminals.

To avoid falling prey -- just as you're beginning a financial record -- here's what to do:

Protect your wallet.

The largest source of ID theft is lost or stolen wallets, checkbooks and credit cards.

Also, don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet.

Minimize the data trail.

Don't hand out personal information whenever asked.

And, call 888-5-OPTOUT to stop receiving pre-approved credit card offers in the mail.

Secure your computer.

Nine percent of ID theft occurs online. To lower the odds, keep firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software up to date.

Keep watch.

Finally, check your credit report. Someone else could be using your name. Javelin found that in cases where an ID thief could be identified, 22 percent were relatives.

Carolyn Bigda writes for Tribune Media Services.

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