Young adults: Ten steps to protect your identity

Young adults are susceptible to identity theft or fraud; follow these 10 steps to prevent it from happening to you.

According to the Consumer Sentinel Network’s Data Book for January – December 2011, reported cases of fraud against young people leaps from a mere 2 percent for people age 19 and under to 15 percent for those age 20 to 29. One could surmise many reasons for such a considerable increase; at the top of those reasons would be that by age 20, most young people are living separately from their parents either at an educational facility or some other separate residence. At this time, it becomes their responsibility to manage and protect their personal information and assets from would-be identity thieves.

Ten simple steps started early and practiced regularly will protect young people and their good name from identity theft:

  1. All young adults age 16 and older should check their credit report at least once each year and preferably from all three major reporting agencies Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. One check from each is available free each year by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
  2. Do not leave mail in a mailbox for long periods of time. Check it each day and shred credit card offers or any unnecessary paperwork containing personal information.
  3. Never carry a social security number in your wallet or purse. Memorize the number instead!
  4. Review monthly bills and bank statements when they arrive, checking them for errors or unauthorized transactions.
  5. Use random passwords to secure a computer or smart phone. Change passwords frequently (every 30 days) and lock equipment when not in use.
  6. Be mindful of visitors to dorm rooms or an apartment. Do not leave bills, statements, bank books or other personal information out where others can easily see it. Also, be sure to lock up when leaving even if only for a short time.
  7. Keep personal information private. Never give out information over the phone to unknown persons who have called you. Be sure the caller is legitimate by getting their name, excuse yourself from the call, then look the number up using a reliable source and call them back.
  8. Limit the numbers of cards you own and carry around with you. This will help prevent excessive debt due to overcharging and reduce the risk of someone stealing them.
  9. Report lost or stolen cards immediately to the issuing company.
  10. Be sure to notify your financial institutions and credit card companies before moving to a new part of the state, country, another home or apartment.

Identity theft is real and can be both costly and time-consuming to repair. Be proactive and take steps to prevent it from happening to you!

For additional information regarding youth finances, visit Michigan State University Extension’s 4-H Youth Development website. To contact an expert in your area, visit people.msue.msu.edu or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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