November 10, 2015 Personal Finance

How 30-somethings can protect against ID theft

For many people, their 30s are a fulfilling decade. They’re getting married, buying homes and starting families — all wonderful events that can catch the attention of identity thieves.  

The following tips can help protect 30-somethings against ID theft when they reach these benchmarks.

When marriage enters the picture

In many states, getting a marriage license requires proof of identification and a Social Security number.

“Keep track of the documents and who you’re supplying them to,” says Michael Bruemmer, vice president of consumer protection with Experian. For added safety, brides and grooms who are changing their names may want to do it in person rather than online or via fax, he says.

“Also keep a good eye on your credit report at this time,” Bruemmer says. “Watch for anything suspicious that attaches to the credit file.”

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Buying your 1st home

Buying a home typically requires providing personal data. Ask how the information will be protected, says Eva Velasquez, CEO and president of the Identity Theft Resource Center.

For instance, some firms engage “mobile notaries,” who travel to their clients’ homes to notarize documents. If the documents will remain easily accessible in the person’s car or home, it makes sense to handle these tasks at the financial institution to avoid ID theft.

Bruemmer advises to be leery of emails and calls purporting to involve the transaction. In one scam, criminals instruct consumers engaged in home purchases to send money to an address that seems legitimate, yet differs from the one previously provided. Rather than sending funds to “Bank ABC Mortgage,” they’ll say to now use “Bank ABC Mortgage 1.”

If this happens, contact your financial institution through a number or email address you know is correct — not one provided by the caller or in the email.

Once you’ve moved, let your financial institutions know your new address as soon as possible. “You don’t want mail going to your old address,” where it might tempt thieves, Bruemmer says.

Once you have children

ID theft involving children can be especially harmful, as it may remain undetected for years. Yet, it’s rarely feasible to keep children’s personal information completely private.

Many schools require students’ Social Security numbers to show they’re educating the people they claim to be, Velasquez says. When this information is required, ask how it’s used and safeguarded against ID theft. Is it in an area that any school employee can access?

Also, ask if the information is shared with sports or other programs, Velasquez says. The goal is to limit how frequently the data is shared. Confirm that any shared information is protected.

Watch for signs that a child’s identity has been compromised, such as an IRS notice stating that a child who doesn’t have a source of income didn’t pay taxes, or a credit report pops up in his or her name. “In most cases, a child under 18 shouldn’t have one,” Bruemmer says.

For most people, reaching these milestones is reason to celebrate. These steps can keep criminals from crashing your 30-something party.