Teens Prime Target for
Today’s teenagers, many of whom are just learning how to
balance a checkbook need also to learn about a growing epidemic
in this country, identity theft. According to the Federal Trade
Commission (FTC), young people under the age of 29 years old are
the number one demographic target for identity thieves, comprising
31 percent of the some 10 million identity-thefts annually throughout
Experts speculate that teenagers and young people are perhaps
more vulnerable to identity theft than adults because most have
not established credit records that can be monitored. Making teens
even more susceptible to identity theft is the fact that they are
less likely to check their credit card records, and may not even
be aware of their credit record and its importance. Unfortunately,
just as many teens lack the knowledge to make sound financial choices,
they also have little or no knowledge of financial transactions
and credit reports.
Jill Pharr, executive director of the Texas Credit Union Foundation
(TCUF), says that just as students are required to take core curriculum
courses such as literature and history, they should also be required
to take a course on money management.
Fortunately, the passage of House Bill 492 by state Rep. Beverly
Woolley does just that. The bill, passed by the state legislature
and signed by Gov. Rick Perry earlier this year, makes financial
literacy education a prerequisite for graduation in Texas, and ensures
every student an opportunity to learn about saving, investing and
setting financial goals.
According to the experts, most teens do not discover they have
fallen victim to identity theft until they apply for a driver's
license and are denied because one has already been issued under
their Social Security number. So before some teens have even learned
to drive, they’ll spend hundreds of hours over a period of
several years or more clearing their records.
There are steps teens can take to minimize their risks of identity
- Guarding personal identifying information: Don’t be afraid
to ask adults (e.g. coaches, teachers and employers) who ask for
Social Security, driver's license and credit card numbers that
you want to know how they'll use it and how they'll protect it
from identity theft.
- Take measures to protect your personal information: It's valuable,
so password-protect your laptops, wireless phones, pagers and
MP3 players, and don't store personal identification information
on these and other devices.
- Shred all documents you no longer need that contain personal
identifying information – simply tossing these documents
in the trash can will put you at risk.
- Check yourself out. When you turn 16, frequently review checking
account and credit card statements for irregularities and ask
for help on how to monitor your credit reports at least once a
For more information on how you can help prevent identity theft,
visit the FTC’s web site at www.ftc.gov
and click on ID Theft: What It’s All About.