Why “Tech-Savvy” Millennials Fall Victim to Identity Theft (and 7 Things to Do About It)

People who have grown up using computers may be even more at risk.

As the generation that grew up with the Internet, millennials are 18 percent more likely than baby boomers to fall prey to fraud. When technology revolutionized how finances were managed, the idea of checking and reviewing bank statements was tossed aside about as fast as CDs, flip phones and fax machines.

Even though 71 percent of Canadians are aware of the negative impact identity theft can have on them, only half (53 percent) of them are taking some of the recommended steps to protect themselves against an attack. In fact, while nearly three-quarters of consumers say their credit score would be affected if they were to fall victim to identity theft, only 12 percent actively use a credit score monitoring tool.

The good news? It doesn’t take much to keep your information safe, and with the plethora of tools at your disposal, it’s easier than you think to stay on top of your credit score and feel confident about your finances. Here are seven of Capital One’s top tips for avoiding identity theft.

1. Protect Your Personal Information

Whether it’s over the phone, through the mail, online or via text, you should always know the identity and credibility of the person you’re sharing your personal information with. This includes your social media info. According to chief customer experience officer of Capital One Canada, Brent Reynolds, “People have gotten so comfortable putting everything out there in terms of sharing their personal information. You have to be really careful. On social media, a lot more of your information can be accessed by millions of people. So, you should definitely be taking advantage of the security settings [and] putting as little personal information out there as possible.”

2. Create a Strong PIN

This is an oldie, but a goodie: never use personal information for your PIN. Always assume that if your friends know something about you, a fraudster might be able to determine it from your online activity. This includes your birthday and address, the year you graduated, your SIN number and your phone number. A few more general rules are to use a different PIN for each card, cover the keypad when you enter your PIN and never write it down or share it with anyone.

3. Review the Features Your Card Offers

Many credit cards have useful features to help you detect fraudulent activity, like two-way fraud alerts and purchase notifications. It’s in your best interest to take advantage of these tools if they’re available to you. Many credit card providers offer policies that protect you against being held liable for instances of fraud on your account; however, if left undetected, it could damage your credit score. Enable real-time notifications so that you’re informed as soon as a transaction goes through on your card.

4. Report Fraud the Second You Notice It

We’ve all misplaced our wallets about as much as we’ve “lost” our phones (only to discover them in our hands 30 seconds later). But if you think you’ve actually lost your wallet or had it stolen, report it immediately. Call your issuers and inform them of the loss, as many have measures in place to protect your information.

5. Monitor Your Credit Score and Get a Copy of Your Report

Staying on top of your credit reports is one of the easiest ways to see if someone is trying to open a new loan account in your name — or worse yet, using your information to default on a loan. Capital One’s Credit Keeper* is a great (and free!) tool, for select Capital One cardholders, to keep in your belt, as it allows you to see recent inquiries on your credit file and monitor your credit score for unexpected activity. “Month-over-month, if you see a big break in patterns and you haven’t missed any payments or anything, that might be a sign that you’ve been a victim of identity theft,” says Reynolds.

6. Keep Your Password Game Diverse

A well thought out set of passwords is one of the strongest barriers you can place between yourself and identity theft. Consider using a password manager to create complex, encrypted passwords for each site you visit, and tie something from each site to that individual password. For instance, once you build a strong password for a specific website, you could also add the first three characters of the site’s name to it.

7. Watch Out for Phishing Emails

Fraudsters typically go through an email service to find targets. They may ask you to “take action”, “update” or “confirm” your account information, or even request that you make a phone call. If you think you may have a phishing scam on your hands, Reynolds encourages you to “immediately close your browser and then always reopen your online banking app.” Never click on a link included in a suspicious email, regardless of how legitimate it may seem. And as an added precaution, you can always reach out to the company that the email claims to be contacting you on behalf of. Fraudsters will often hide behind the letterheads of reputable companies, such as your bank or loan provider.

*Credit Keeper is a service offered by Capital One Canada and is powered by credit history and score information provided by TransUnion. Availability may vary depending on the ability to verify your identity and obtain your information from TransUnion. The credit score provided by Credit Keeper is intended for your educational use only. Lenders and other commercial users may use a different type of credit score and other information when making credit decisions. Currently, Credit Keeper isn’t available for Capital One customers who live in the province of Quebec, or who have a Capital One Mastercard exclusively for Costco members.