Here's a look at what these consumers (or their family members) who are at high risk can do
to reduce their vulnerability and safeguard themselves against ID theft.
1. Children. Without any existing credit, children offer a blank slate for people having difficulty applying
for jobs (perhaps due to illegal immigration status) or who want to apply for credit using someone else's
identity. Parents often need to share children's personal information to enroll them in school, but Eva
Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit that assists identity theft
victims, recommends being wary of requests from other places such as a doctor's office or Little League team.
"If they have forms asking for your child's Social Security number so they can play T-ball, why do they need
that?" she asks. "If they say they need it, how are they going to store it?"
Children in the foster system are especially susceptible to ID theft because their information is shared with
several local and state agencies or other groups, and they may not have a parental figure looking out for
them. "The more [personal information] is out there, the more chance it has for exposure," Velasquez says.
2. College students. Colleges used to base student IDs on their Social Security numbers, but they've moved
away from that due to privacy concerns. However, college students may still be asked for their Social Security
number when they apply for financial aid, jobs or apartments, or when they fill in a warranty form for a new
computer or other electronics, which should never be done because disclosing your Social Security number
on a warranty isn't necessary. "They're giving it to landlords, lenders, the school, credit card companies, and
all this throwing around of the Social [Security number] makes them vulnerable," says Robert Siciliano, identity
theft expert with BestIDTheftCompanys.com. Oversharing personal information on social media (address,
birthdate, birthplace and mother's maiden name) only increases the potential for ID theft.
3. Military members and veterans. The military used to assign service numbers based on members' Social
Security numbers. That practice, like student ID numbers, has fall out of favor for similar reasons. However,
some veterans may still have an identifier that matches their Social Security number, so Robert Ellis Smith,
publisher of Privacy Journal in Providence, Rhode Island, recommends applying to have it changed. Military
members serving overseas may also find it harder to stay on top of their finances. "Even if they're overseas,
they should go online and check their credit report regularly," he says.
Some service members grant power of attorney to family or friends to manage their personal business in
their absence. However, Velasquez warns that service members should choose the person carefully. "This
doesn't tend to present a problem if it's a very trusted person like a spouse or parent," Velasquez says, "but
sometimes they just don't have that type of family support, so often these young guys will sign over power
of attorney to a girl they've been dating for two months, and they've just given them the keys to the kingdom."
4. Seniors. Sharing identifying information by phone or email puts consumers of any age at risk for identity
theft. But older consumers, in particular, may fall prey to these ploys out of loneliness or confusion. "Anytime
you get a phone call asking for personal information, you should just hang up the phone," Siciliano says.
"It doesn't matter what they're offering you or what you stand to lose. The IRS is not going call you." Also be
wary of emergencies from supposed grandkids, as that's been a common scam recently.
One way to reduce the potential for ID theft is to freeze an older parent’s credit so that thieves can't open
new credit accounts or apply for loans using their identity. "You want to get control over your elderly
parents' financial lives, and a credit freeze is one of the best ways to do that," Siliciano says, adding that
you should closely monitor their bank accounts. “Sign up for notifications or alerts on all of their transactions."
5. The deceased. Sadly, not even dearly departed relatives are immune from ID theft. A 2012 study by
ID Analytics' ID:A Labs, a group of economists and other experts who conduct research on consumer
behavior, found that fraudsters impersonate nearly 2.5 million deceased Americans a year, using their
identities to apply for credit products and services. "It's hard to remediate because it's often a family
member that discovers it," Velasquez says. "You generally have to supply a lot of documentation to
demonstrate who you are and what your relationship is to the deceased."
This issue tends to come up among older couples when one spouse passes away, but sometimes parents
of a deceased adult child also discover identity theft. "They feel really violated [when] they discover that
someone would violate their child's identity like that," Velasquez adds. It can take up to six months for the
three credit bureaus to learn that someone is deceased, during which time thieves can have a field day
with their identity. To avoid this, Velasquez recommends that family members of the deceased immediately
notify the credit bureaus and the Social Security Administration that the person has died.
Source: US News World Report