September 25, 2015
A generation ago, most families didn't think about financial fraud. Today, it can come in many forms – over the phone, through the mail and increasingly, online. It's an equal opportunity crime that affects consumers of all ages.
For the 15th straight year, the Federal Trade Commission tapped identity theft as the number one source of consumer complaints in its 2014 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book (https://www.ftc.gov) released in February. The agency also noted a "large increase" in so-called "imposter" scams – phone calls and emails from thieves purporting to represent the government as a way to steal data and money from unsuspecting adults.
Young people – particularly students – may be the fastest-growing group of fraud targets. Due to their dependence and sometimes unwitting use of computers and mobile devices, young people may be the greatest potential victims of financial fraud, according to a 2015 study (https://www.javelinstrategy.com) by Javelin Strategy & Research. More than 64 percent of respondents said they were not "very concerned" about identity fraud, but were far more likely to find out they were fraud victims long after the damage occurred, such as through a call from a debt collector or a rejection letter from a lender.
Most consumers under the age of 18 shouldn't have a credit record at all. But as digital thieves become more sophisticated and federal agencies become occasionally vulnerable to hackers, critical privacy data like Social Security numbers – which many parents obtain for their children in infancy to save or invest money or buy insurance on their behalf – could be at risk years before a child ever opens a bank account or applies for a loan.
For all of these reasons, it may be time to think about a family fraud plan. Here are some steps to consider.
Bottom line: Identity thieves and other financial fraudsters watch consumer behavior closely and are equally adept at stealing money and data in person, over the phone and online. Have a plan in place to protect the entire family.
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