Millennials have grown up with technology playing a leading role in their lives and as a result are quick to embrace the latest and greatest device, app or social network. But that comfort with technology puts them at particular risk for identity theft at a time when the criminals are getting increasingly greedy.
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Consider this: According to the Javelin Strategy 2015 Identity Fraud report, thieves stole $16 billion from 12.7 million U.S. consumers in 2014. That amounts to a new identity fraud victim every 2 seconds, according to Javelin.
And, Americans age 20-29 make up 15% of identity theft complaints, according to a 2012 study by the Federal Trade Commission.
For tech-savvy millennials, the threat of becoming a statistic doesn't register, even though their behavior makes them more susceptible, says Tim Rohrbaugh, chief information security officer at Intersections Inc., an identity risk management company.
"There's a certain amount of trust inherent with these systems" by millennials, Rohrbaugh says. "They are digital natives. A lot of stuff, they take for granted."
Privacy can protect you from identity theft
According to cybersecurity experts, millennials' willingness to share personal data on social networks puts them at increased risk. These days, many websites require users to input a password and answer security questions to gain access, but often the answers to those questions can easily be discovered on a person's Facebook page.
Another reason millennials are at risk is their openness to try new technology without giving much thought to repercussions. After all, if someone steals their credit card and makes purchases, they know they won't be on the hook to the card issuer.
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"Consumers have been trained that they're not liable for fraud, and that comes from using credit cards," says Garient Evans, vice president of solution services at ID Analytics. What millennials don't realize is "when you have your identity stolen, it's a lot more painful for a consumer to untangle."
Less comfort, more scrutiny needed
For millennials, protecting themselves from identity theft starts with being more discerning where they input their information.
Experts say creating a personal persona on social media that is completely locked down to people outside of their network can help prevent hackers from decoding their passwords and answers to security questions.
What's more, millennials should create answers to security questions that are more like additional passwords rather than their favorite pet's name, which is plastered all over their social media pages.
There needs to be a barrier between personal and professional profiles, Rohrbaugh says. "We're teaching people that keeping their work and personal persona separate is extremely important," he says.
Keep an eye on apps
Being aware of what their apps are doing in the background also can protect millennials from someone secretly siphoning their data or installing a virus on their cellphone or computer.
There also needs to be a change in attitude with a realization that this can happen to them and that identifying data beyond a bank account or Social Security number has to be a priority.
"Millennials have to scrutinize the terms and conditions of every service they sign up for and take control of their privacy settings," ID Analytics' Evans says. "There are ways to limit the exposure of that information."
Copyright 2015, Bankrate Inc.