Summer 2006 – Start Smart: Money Management for Teens
Warning: Identity Thieves Target Young People, Too
Criminals use the Internet to obtain personal information and steal money
You've probably heard or read about "identity theft," which happens when someone learns enough private information about another person to be able to withdraw money from a bank account or obtain a new credit card in that other person's name and use it for purchases that will not be paid for. But did you know that adults aren't the only people whose identity is being used by ID thieves?
Crooks target young people like you even though you may be too young to have a checking account or credit card on your own. They can use your name, address and Social Security Number to open accounts.
While we don't want to scare you, we do want to help you protect yourself and your family from ID theft.
Be extra careful with your full name and address, date of birth, Social Security Number, bank account information, phone number and your mother's maiden name. This is personal information that banks and other businesses use to confirm your identity, which can be very valuable to an ID thief wanting to pose as you to commit fraud.
Don't give out personal information in response to an incoming call or e-mail from a stranger or an advertisement on the Internet. For example, beware of what law enforcement officials call "phishing," a type of identity theft in which criminals use fake Web sites and e-mails to "fish" for valuable personal information.
In the typical phishing scam, you receive an e-mail supposedly from a company you may do business with or even from a government agency. The e-mail describes a reason you must "resubmit" bank account numbers or other personal information. If you follow their instructions, the thieves hiding behind what you think is a legitimate Web site or e-mail can use the information to withdraw or spend money in your name.
"Identity thieves are very good at pretending to be legitimate business people and government officials so they can convince others to share personal information or even send money," said Michael Benardo, manager of the FDIC's financial crimes section.
That's why you should never provide personal information in response to a phone call, e-mail or a pop-up ad on the Web, no matter how official it may appear to be.
Never share your passwords or ID numbers for your computer with friends or strangers. Be especially suspicious of new "friends" you've met through the Internet, such as through a Web site where people can post information about themselves and can contact others through that site. These people could be fraud artists.
Don't leave your birth certificate or documents with your Social Security Number unprotected at home, at school or anywhere else. For example, while you may need to provide your birth certificate as proof of your age when you sign up for a sports league or get your learner's permit, you shouldn't leave your birth certificate in your locker at school or any other place that may not be safe.
For more information about avoiding ID theft, visit the Federal Trade Commission's Web site for consumers at www.consumer.gov/idtheft.