As each year goes by, more of us are becoming victims of identity theft. But did you know that cyber criminals actually prey upon some groups of people more often than others? Who are these potential victims? And why are they more likely to be the targets of cyber scams?
Who: Social media users
Why: According to Business Insider, you’re 73 percent more likely to have your identity stolen if you use three or more social networks. Today, it’s not uncommon for Internet users to have at least three social network accounts (e.g., LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter). Unfortunately, identity thieves often look to collect personal information from social media sites and use it to get past security questions to access online accounts. Hackers can then pretend that they are the owners of the accounts and, for example, withdraw money from the real owners’ bank accounts.
Why: Seniors are particularly at risk of becoming victims of identity theft. After working for a lifetime, they often have built up healthy nest eggs and typically have more liquid funds. Cyber thieves see rich pickings in this age group.
Seniors are also the target of scam phone calls, including the IRS scam, where a scammer phishing for personal and payment information calls pretending to be from the IRS, as well as the “grandparents” scam, where the scammer pretends to be a family member with an urgent request for financial assistance.
In addition, seniors tend to use the health care system more. Because most of them are insured through Medicare, their personal information is held at multiple medical facilities, perhaps putting them at a greater risk of having their information stolen.
Who: 18- to 29-year olds
Why: According to the Federal Trade Commission, 18- to 29-year-olds make up 20 percent of identity theft complaints, in part because these individuals are more likely to be active online. They’re also at a time of life when they’re opening new lines of credit, including applying for credit cards and taking on student loans or home mortgages. In addition, they typically use more technology—smartphones, tablets, laptops—especially when on the go, and they are more apt to use public Wi-Fi networks and to shop online.
Why: Identity thieves look upon a minor’s social security number (SSN) and credit history as clean slates. If a minor’s SSN has never been used, when a criminal goes to open a line of credit, loan, or account, a bank or financial institution probably won’t push back and will simply grant the request. Unfortunately, this type of fraud usually isn’t discovered until the minor turns 18—when he or she tries to open a bank account under his or her own name or applies for a credit card or loan and is rejected!
Tips we can all use to help protect our identities
Despite the increasing prevalence of ID theft among everyone, including the groups described above, there are steps we can take to mitigate our risks:
Keep an eye on your finances and your debit and credit card accounts. Monitor them regularly so that you can spot any unusual activity.
Be aware of the personal information you share online that is available for others to see. Remember that identity thieves can collect pieces of information and piece them together to bypass security questions and access your accounts either online or over the phone.
Consider purchasing identity theft protection that will monitor your lines of credit, finances, name, and personal information attached to your name and SSN. Some services cover minors and regularly check the credit reports of children under the age of 18.
Be wary when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks. You never know whether an identity thief with the right hacker tools is on the same network as you, tracking your activity and stealing your personal information.
Don’t carry your social security card around with you.
Don’t make your SSN your Medicare account number.
This material has been provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute either tax or legal advice. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a tax preparer, professional tax advisor, or lawyer. © Copyright 2020 Commonwealth Financial Network®. Presented by Dan Romaine. Dan Romaine is a financial advisor at Blue Hills Wealth Management. BHWM is located at 300 Crown Colony Drive, Quincy MA. Dan can be reached at 617-471-6800 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, Member, FINRA/SIPC a registered investment advisor. Fixed insurance products and services and College Planning services offered by Blue Hills Wealth Management and College Funding Solutions are separate and unrelated to Commonwealth.