Identity Theft: Who's using your data, and for what purpose?

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It is probably no surprise to parents that identity theft continues to be the fastest growing type of fraud. But what may surprise students and parents alike -is that people in the 18 to 29 age range are the fastest growing group of victims. And the number of victims in the under 18 population is growing rapidly. It's not too hard to figure out why. Thieves can use the identity of a child for quite a long time before it's detected. Teens, tweens and young adults are often favorite targets of identity thieves. Criminals are becoming much more tech savvy and we need to become much more careful. Our data is stolen in a variety of ways and then sold to multiple thieves for an array of purposes including obtaining: employment, housing, medical services, government benefits, Drivers Licenses, Passports, and of course, credit and cash.

Students today have grown up in a digital society. They routinely post their personal information to websites like MySpace and Facebook. Often, they provide far too much information...their full names, addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, pet names and where they like to hang out and what their interests are; leaving them (and their parents) vulnerable to innovative criminals. We often never know how our data is stolen and don't suspect it's being used by criminals until we detect the damage that has already occurred.

Take the case of Tia Nicole Holzworth who was profiled in a recent Miami Herald piece.

If students are not vigilant in protecting their credit identity they will find more in their future than just a degree. Many of them will destroy their credit rating if they fall victim to an identity theft.  A thief can easily destroy their credit rating and keep them from getting their dream-job regardless of how good their education is.

For tips on identity theft and how to protect yourself from it, see earlier blogs and review the below categories.

 How it occurs.
 Types of Identity theft
 Types of Protection
 I am a Victim

Take control of your identity --before someone else does! Take it from me, both as a multiple time victim of this crime, and as a Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist, no one is immune to it. As criminals continue to make use the many technological tools and advances readily available to them, we must do the same.  Taking time to think about how best to protect your data before a crime occurs, just as we do when it comes to protecting our home, car, health and even our computers, we will reduce our risk and impact. It's important to stay informed and alert to the various scams that circulate both in cyberspace and in the real world. The more in tuned we are to phishing scams and criminal techniques used to obtain our data, the less likely we be reeled in and hooked by one of them.

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