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Guest Post by Kayla Matthews
When it comes to scams and identity theft, we tend to think of senior citizens, some of society’s most vulnerable, are at a higher risk. But what if that isn’t true?
Identity theft is actually more common among millennials than any other age group. A report found that 40 percent of young adults lost money to fraud compared to only 18 percent of adults over 70.
Millennials are targeted
All young adults face a transitional period in life when they move out of their parents’ house and learn to live on their own. This might mean setting up a bank account, securing housing, or applying for a credit card — all with little to no prior experience.
This transition is what makes millennials so attractive to scammers. Someone committing fraud has a better chance of getting money from a young adult with less experience than a seasoned senior who’s been around the block.
Millennials can stay safe
Identity theft is a headache no one wants to deal with. If you’re a millennial who wants to avoid the hassle, here is some advice you can use to protect yourself.
1. Check your credit score
A credit score is a representation of how likely you are to pay off your debts. If you don’t have any big purchases to make — a car, a house, a boat — you may think checking your credit score isn’t necessary. But not checking your credit score means fraudsters can get away with their crimes for months or longer without being detected.
As a young adult, you may not even have credit yet. This only makes you a more attractive target, as thieves can take advantage of first-time credit offers.
It’s recommended you check your credit regularly. By law, you are entitled to a free credit report from each reporting agency once per year.
2. Protect passwords
Do you bank online? Perhaps you like to check your balance from your phone or mobile deposit a check. With millennials making up the biggest percentage of the U.S. workforce, you most likely have a work email and software accounts, all of which protect valuable information.
Each account you create online and on your smart devices should have a unique password. This offers more security and prevents private information from being stolen.
It can be hard to keep track of multiple passwords, so use a secure password tool or keep a list in a safe location — preferably offline and not on a sticky note stuck to your monitor.
3. Beware of public Wi-Fi
It’s nice to take advantage of public Wi-Fi when you're stuck waiting or you have a free moment to kill. But be aware that when you enter passwords or personal information while on a private network, your data can be intercepted by a third party, putting your identity at risk.
When using public Wi-Fi, stick to websites meant for browsing. Try to avoid logging into profiles or entering any personal information.
4. Protect your computer
Computer viruses, which typically come in the form of emails and other online links, can steal your sensitive information and send it to a third party.
Be sure to install virus protection on all your devices. You can customize the settings, including which websites you want to block, based on your needs. You can also download email add-ons designed to filter out spam or suspicious looking email in your inbox.
Protect yourself from fraud
Don’t become a victim of identity theft. Even though millennials are young and learning as they go, plenty can be done to protect sensitive data and private information.
Kayla Matthews, a tech and security journalist, has written articles for sites including WIRED, Information Age, Security Boulevard, and the National Cyber Security Alliance. To see more of her work, follow her on Twitter @KaylaEMatthews or check out her tech blog, Productivity Bytes.