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Identity theft is nothing new but a push to protect kids and teens is new and now underway in Utah schools. Wednesday is “get smart about credit day” and Zion’s Bank used the opportunity to talk to teens about what they can do to protect their credit as they prepare to leave home.
A new Carnegie Mellon study shows that teens age 15 to 18 are twice as likely as their parents to become victims of fraud and identity theft. The study points to kids as easy targets with new clean credit and their use of social media. For many teens social media can be their downfall even when they’re doing all they think they can to protect their hard-earned money.
At West High today kids were asked a few seemingly simple questions like whether or not they shared their birthday on social media, and more importantly the actual year they were born. Many students answered yes to both questions, and many more that stand to hurt them in the long run. Teens got the financial reality check from Zion’s Bank president Scott Anderson who says teens need to be aware of what their credit report can do to hurt or help them in the future.
Anderson says of teens, “they are easier targets, they don’t know how to protect themselves and they go on social media and they feel like they can share anything.”
Teens often post the name of their school, phone number, pets’ name and their own birthday. Each of these things can be used to figure out passwords or gain access to social security numbers.
“All of a sudden, this credit is piling up against someone who doesn’t know it is there and they are only 18,” Anderson said.
Teens who don’t have credit cards wind up “easy targets for fraudsters because they don’t check their credit reports.” Anderson says that is a mistake because “the credit report becomes critical if they want an auto loan, a student loan or the ability to rent an apartment.” Even job possibilities can be hurt in companies that check credit reports as a character reference before hiring.
West High teens were a little surprised but what they stand to lose by posting too freely on social media, especially since they seem to know the steps to protect their debit cards.
Senior Darrell Sam wants to start a small business when he graduates and keeps a close watch on his bank card. He says he “knows there is a pin number associated with it” but still has to make sure it’s in his “sight at all times.”
Princess Salazar, who works two jobs and appreciates every penny she makes, lost her debit card this summer. She acted fast and “immediately” went to her bank and said, “I lost my card. Can you cancel it?”
While these teens are careful with their bank cards, that may not help them. Banks are often on the line for the money lost to fraud. Teens however are left with the damage done to their credit if they are not careful on social media.
Banks suggest that teens only allow people they are actually friends with in real life on their social media accounts so they lessen their risk for fraud. Teens should also be counseled to keep a code on their phone to lock it and reminded to shred important documents.
It’s a lesson Salazar says she’ll remember as she graduates this year. She has big plans. She wants to go to Weber State and “become a police officer.” That means she will study criminology and in the end she wants to be a detective. At this point she is looking investigate homicides or fraud, something she learned a little bit more about today.