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Life stages of identity theft
It can happen to anyone at any stage of life, but the easiest targets are young adults who expose themselves to risks.
Protecting your identity

Risks of ID theft in a lifetime

Identity thieves discriminate to some degree. Anyone -- young and old, rich and poor -- can be a victim, but fraudsters generally prefer the easiest targets.

While most Americans are doing more to protect themselves from identity theft, others allow themselves to be more vulnerable. The greatest risk is to the 25- to 34-year-old age group. The good news is that as we get older, we're less likely to become a victim.

"What we're finding is that once somebody gets past the age of 44, the numbers start going down," says Keith Anderson, a spokesman for the Federal Trade Commission.

Still, 8.1 million adult Americans last year discovered that ID thieves had breached their personal data and committed one or more crimes against them, according to a February report by Pleasanton, Calif.-based Javelin Strategy & Research.

ID theft risks at various ages
Middle years
Fortunately, as consumers ease into their middle years and leave behind the cavalier days of youth, the risk of identity fraud decreases.

It's not by sheer coincidence or luck that 35- to 50-year-old consumers are less likely to become identity fraud victims. Their behavior is less risky.

Nearly two-thirds of middle-aged adults polled by Bankrate last month said they have made changes in their behavior to avoid identity theft.

James Van Dyke, president of Javelin Strategy & Research, says there are two key reasons that this group enjoys reduced risk.

"People 35-50 are not doing major transactions for the first time as are people in the age group just slightly younger," he says. "That's where you get some especially heavy transacting."

Consumers under 35 are often having children for the first time. They're buying first homes and conducting lots of other first-time transactions, which, Van Dyke says, often leads to higher risks of identity fraud.

Another factor is experience. Middle-aged adults tend to be less haphazard with their finances and are more likely to have a protected computer and to shred documents.

"As people get into their middle age years, they are probably most safe based on behavior," he says.

-- Posted: May 27, 2008
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