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Teens Prime Target for ID Theft

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 the country.

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 theft, including:

  • 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 year.

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.

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