(BPT) - An infant's Social Security number is used in a credit card application. A 10-year-old's identification information is used to apply for a car loan. Grandpa gets an email claiming that he won the lottery and needs to provide information to collect the winnings. Today, identity theft can occur to anyone, not just middle-aged adults. Savvy thieves are targeting every generation, from child to adult to senior. It's important to stay alert so every member of your family is better protected.
Child ID theft
Think you don't have to worry about identity theft for your kids? The fact is more than 19,000 cases of child identity theft were reported in 2011, up from about 6,000 in 2003, according to the Federal Trade Commission. How does this occur to children, who typically don't even have a bank account? Every day many parents send their children to school and child care with personal information in their backpacks. Backpacks are typically hung out of sight for hours or information can end up in desks for days, providing ample opportunity for identity thieves.
How can you tell if your child's ID has been stolen? If your child begins to receive suspicious mail, like pre-approved credit cards and other financial offers normally sent to adults, his identity might have been compromised. Also, a child should never have a credit history until they are older and actually have financial accounts. If you suspect that identity thieves may have targeted your child, complete a secure Child Identity Theft Inquiry Form at TransUnion.com. TransUnion will investigate the existence of a potential credit file in your child's name, and after the search is complete, respond to you at the email address you provide. If a file is located in your child's name, additional information will be asked for in order to proceed with steps to protect your child from any impact associated with this fraudulent activity.
The most important thing you can do to avoid child identity theft is to be mindful of the personal information your children are carrying. Make sure their information is kept in a safe spot and not just tossed in the bottom of a school bag. Even better, seal any documents that contain your child's personal information in an envelope addressed to the school. Also, explain to your kids that they shouldn't share personal information with strangers in-person or online.
Adult ID theft
Unfortunately, as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year, according to the FTC. Innovative thieves can get your information in many ways - from online hacking to dumpster diving.
To avoid ID theft, always shred personal documents, only use secure sites when shopping online, and give out your driver license number and other identification only when absolutely necessary. It's also wise to pick up your mail from your box every day and consider depositing outbound mail in a mailbox at the post office.
Awareness is your best weapon against identity thieves, so subscribing to a monitoring service like TransUnion Total gives you peace of mind. The service helps you minimize your exposure to identity theft by proactively monitoring the sites where posting personal information may occur. The service also includes monitoring for changes in your credit, new addresses registered with the postal service, court records and non-credit loans not reported to the credit bureaus. If ID theft does happen, you won't be alone. TransUnion will help you restore your good name and also help you cancel stolen items from your wallet and obtain new ones.
Senior ID theft
Seniors are frequently targeted by online phishing scams. If you're a senior, or you are an adult child who cares for an elderly parent, it's important to always guard personal information closely.
Seniors are often targeted on the phone with offers of free samples or lottery winnings - the caller simply needs some personal information to transfer the money or send the item. Another popular scheme is someone posing as a relative who is stuck and needs money in order to get home. Every senior should be highly skeptical when asked for bank accounts or Social Security numbers on the phone or Internet.
Another issue - that is an easy fix - is many seniors carry their personal information with them at all times - including their Social Security card, Medicare card, check book, etc. It's wise to only carry what is needed when leaving the house.
Identity theft affects all generations. By knowing the different considerations for the various ages of your family's members, you'll help keep everyone safe today and in the future.