Teen identity theft can make it harder for young adults to qualify for student loans or secure their first apartment. Families can use this quick guide to better protect teens from identity theft and fraud. Enrolling in an identity protection family plan can provide additional peace of mind.
How common is teen identity theft? According to Javelin Strategy & Research, 915,000 U.S. children were victims of identity fraud in 2022.
Read on to learn more about teens and identity theft — including why teenagers may be a particularly vulnerable age group and what parents can do to help.
Why do identity thieves target teens?
Teenagers tend to have clean credit or no credit at all, which makes them attractive targets for identity thieves.
Because minors don’t typically have credit reports or check their credit scores, fraud can go undetected for years. For victims between the ages of 13 and 17, identity theft can even complicate the transition to adulthood.
Many young victims of identity theft don’t discover the problem until they apply for their first line of credit — such as a student loan or car loan — and then get rejected due to fraudulent activity on their credit profile.
How do identity thieves get a teenager’s personal information?
Teens are spending more time on the internet. As a result, more of their information is being gathered, used, and stored online.
A recent report found that teens ages 11 to 18 are online for more than ten hours every day, scrolling through social media, gaming, shopping, using video chat, and texting.
If a company, app, or online service storing your teen’s personal information experiences a data breach, their details can wind up exposed — which can up the risk of identity theft.
That’s concerning, because data breaches have become common. In 2022, Javelin Strategy & Research found that one in 43 American kids had their identities exposed in a data breach over the previous year.
Even data collected by trusted institutions and schools can fall into the wrong hands. Public schools, for example, are increasingly targeted by ransomware attacks.
In addition, cybercriminals may reach out to teens directly via text or online — over email or social media, for example — and attempt to get their personal information. We’ve seen scammers reach out to teenagers and:
Offer in-demand merchandise or concert tickets
Pretend to be a close friend or acquaintance from school
Threaten the teen with blackmail
How can identity theft affect your teenager's future?
Teen identity theft can create roadblocks on a child’s path to adulthood.
Personal information stolen from teenagers can be used to open fraudulent bank accounts and credit cards, obtain driver’s licenses, apply for jobs, and even finance large-scale purchases, such as homes or vehicles.
Scammers may either use a child’s full identity or create a synthetic identity by blending real data with made-up details — such as your teenager’s real Social Security number combined with a fabricated name, birth date, and address.
All of this can damage your teen’s credit significantly. In some cases, identity theft can make it challenging for young adults to achieve important milestones, or even delay their financial independence.
“Imagine an 18-year-old discovering they owe $25,000 to a collection company for a car they never bought,” says Brian Stuart, Director of Customer Care at Allstate Identity Protection. “That’s a shocking way to start adulthood."
That’s why we recommend families stay alert to teen identity theft — and we’re here to show you how.
How to protect your teenager from identity theft
These tips from our in-house experts can help you protect your teen’s identity now and in the future.
Help your teen be responsible online
Teenagers often have rules to follow about using the family car and how late they can stay out with friends. Setting similar boundaries for online activities can help them make better choices.
Help them understand the dangers of oversharing and other risky behaviors. Show them how to spot unsafe or unsecure websites. Encourage them to strike a healthy balance between screen time and offline activities.
Teenagers relish the independence and freedom of their online lifestyle. Letting them share the responsibility for staying safe online will help them advocate for themselves when faced with anything that seems suspicious.
Talk with your teen about common online scams
Teenagers may not automatically connect the dots between sharing online and identity theft, or fully realize the long-term effects of identity theft and fraud. That’s why it’s important to talk as a family about how identity thieves can get your information, and the impacts of fraud.
Make sure to keep the lines of communication open, and let your teenager know that they can come to you with questions about any suspicious email, text, or social media account that they encounter.
Teach your teenager how to protect themselves
Just like we teach our children about “stranger danger,” we need to have the same conversations with teenagers about talking to strangers online.
This means instilling a healthy skepticism about whether people online are who they say they are. A good rule of thumb? Only chat with someone on social media if you know them in real life.
It’s also important to make sure teens understand the hallmarks of phishing such as blurry images, frequent typos, or urgent requests. The more teens know about what scammers are up to, the better prepared they’ll be to protect themselves.
When it comes to shopping online, encourage them to shop only on websites that they know and trust.
Lastly, show them how to create strong passwords for their online accounts.
Place a security freeze on your teenager's credit file
By placing a security freeze on your child’s credit, you can make it harder for someone else to open a line of credit in their name.
Each of the three credit bureaus has a different process for this, but in general, parents or guardians must mail a written request along with copies of identifying documents directly to each bureau to request a freeze on a minor’s behalf.
You can find more specific instructions for how to do this with each bureau by following the links below:
Use an identity protection service
Parenting in the digital age has its challenges — but Allstate Identity Protection is here to help. This checklist can help you take action to reduce the risk of fraud in your family.
But in addition, we recommend signing up for an identity monitoring family plan, like the one we offer.
Our tools can help parents monitor kids and teens on social media for added peace of mind. And if fraud does occur, members have access to identity specialists who can fully manage the recovery process — so your child’s future can continue to look bright.