Identity theft and financial fraud has grown more advanced in recent years, and the latest trend could see college students become the primary target.
According to the Javelin Strategy and Research 2013 Identity Theft Report, The Federal Trade Commission reported roughly one-in-five fraud complaints came from victims in aged 20-29 years old, constituting the largest number of complaints of any age group. As reported by TribLIVE, the number of identity theft complaints filed with the FTC in that age group increased from 56,635 complaints in 2010 to 57,491 complaints in 2012.
College students are targeted for a reason. College students, among other things, typically have good working credit scores. But more important for a prospective identity thief or fraudster is the comparably smaller likelihood that college students will check their credit score or monitor financial accounts.
As with any credit fraud or identity theft, it really comes down to opportunity. Unfortunately, college students aren’t doing themselves any favors with regards to fraud deterrence.
Young people are the most frequent and active users of social media and smartphones – technologies that have made it easier for identity thieves to obtain personal information they can use to open fraudulent bank accounts or credit cards. A Facebook account alone can provide a fraudster with a student’s legal name, photo, and birthdate down to the month, day and year.
Javelin sampled some 5,000 U.S. adults for its study, finding that social media users with public profiles are more likely to expose personal information that could be used by identity thieves. The report also found that 68% of users with public social media profiles shared their birthday information – 45% of whom also shared the month, day and year.
Javelin found data trends elsewhere, with 63% of social media users sharing the name of their high school, 18% sharing their phone number and 12% sharing their pet’s name. This information can be vital to a potential fraudster as this information is commonly used for passwords or to verify identity.
Students need to practice caution in public places as well, particularly as it relates to using their smartphone. Javelin found that during the calendar year 2012, 7% of smart phone users were the victims of identity fraud – a one-third higher rate as compared to the general public.
Students may well be susceptible to attack, but they nonetheless possess the savviness to safely navigate the Internet. While a greater online awareness and caution will pay dividends for student financial safety, proper financial education from parents will also be key to deterring fraud and identity theft in a digital age.