Keep it real: Minors at risk of identity theft when obtaining fake IDs online


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While never smiled upon by law enforcement authorities, young people have long looked upon obtaining fake identification as a rite of passage.

Having a phony driver’s license meant a minor could buy alcohol for himself and his friends. And for those entering college who weren’t yet old enough to purchase liquor legally, this was a true perk. Freedom from parental rule plus a fake ID equals happiness!

Decades ago, it was easier to dummy a driver’s license — particularly before they required photos. But states have invested considerably into making them more difficult to forge.

As the technology to create IDs has improved, so have the resources to fake and obtain them. Many people can now get phony driver’s licenses over the Internet. But this increases the risk that those seeking fake IDs will have their identities stolen in the process.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo this week warned college students about the dangers of trying to obtain fake IDs online. He said investigators with the state Department of Motor Vehicles have found dozens of cases over the past few years of young people being scammed by overseas companies.

In attempting to purchase a fake ID, young adults provide personal information such as their name, address and date of birth to people they don’t know. These individuals then use such details to create cards for themselves using the identities of their unsuspecting clients.

“The ripple effects of identity theft can last for years, and more and more college students are opening themselves up to fraudsters by attempting to purchase a fake ID from the Internet,” Mr. Cuomo said in a news release issued Wednesday. “Our message is simple: It’s just not worth it — both for the immediate consequences of getting caught with a fake ID and for putting their financial future at risk.”

The governor is correct. Identity theft can haunt victims for years. It’s difficult — and can be expensive — to clear up.

Young people have discovered the power of the Internet in connecting with others in their own communities and across the globe. As a communication tool, it is unsurpassed. But they also are quite vulnerable to those who abuse the power of this online access.

The 2014 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, produced by the Federal Trade Commission, reported that 18 percent of identity theft victims ranged in ages from 20 to 29.

In addition, the book reported that about 6 percent of these victims were 19 years of age or younger.

“These age groups are less likely to regularly track bank account and credit card activity, pay for identity theft monitoring services and use discretion when sharing information on social media,” according to information from the governor’s news release.

To top it all off, attempting to obtain a fake ID is illegal.

Young adults are risking not only having their identity stolen and used fraudulently, they could get charged with a crime.

Damaging their credit history and facing a criminal charge is no way for young people to begin a college career.

This certainly isn’t the kind of news that Mom and Dad want to hear when they visit on Parents Weekend.

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