Think identity theft mostly happens to older people? Or to high-income earners? The truth is that identity thieves focus their efforts wherever the opportunities are, and there are plenty of opportunities across most age groups.
Identity theft complaints are on the rise, with 16 percent of consumers filing reports, up from the previous year, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s 2016 Consumer Sentinel Network Databook.
Tax- or wage-related fraud was the most common reported identity-related fraud, accounting for 45 percent of consumer complaints, followed by credit card fraud and phone or utilities fraud representing 16 and 10 percent of complaints, respectively.
Most Affected Groups
For our nation’s service members, identity theft remains the number one complaint, unfortunately. And while in past years consumers of all ages reported incidents of the crime at relatively similar rates, the numbers now paint a different picture. Consumers between the ages of 40 and 69 are reporting identity theft at higher rates, suggesting a growing awareness of this crime—and vulnerability.
Here’s a look at three groups identity thieves target and why.
More seniors are reporting identity theft. Consumers between the ages of 40-49 and 50-59 accounted for 15 percent and 24 percent of complaints, respectively, both up from the previous year. And the numbers for seniors are likely to be even higher, according to an AARP survey which found that “victims 55 years of age and older were significantly less likely to acknowledge that they were defrauded than victims under 55.” All-too-common scams include tax identity theft, medical identity theft and fraud committed by nursing home and long-term care staff
Service members are reporting identity theft at a higher rate—30 percent—than the previous year. And they’re experiencing more familiar fraud and new-account fraud than most populations, according to the 2015 Identity Fraud Report from Javelin Strategy & Research. The military has used personally identifying information (PII), such as Social Security numbers, as general identifiers for personnel, which increases theft risks. Moreover, deployed military personnel who do not place an active duty alert on their credit files are easy targets for friends or family members.
Identity theft complaints among college-age students may have dropped slightly, but this group is four times more likely to have their identity stolen through familiar fraud than other populations, according to the 2015 Identity Fraud Study by Javelin Strategy & Research. Much of the issue is likely due to awareness of behaviors that may put them at risk, as well as limited understanding of the costs and challenges of identity theft. For example, students are often very aware of computer security, but they share personal information widely and may not understand the importance of locking away or shredding important documents and IDs, and regularly checking their credit reports.
If you suspect you’re a victim of identity theft or wish to proactively manage your identity, check with your personal banker to find out how you can work with a fraud specialist to help manage and protect your identity.