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Are Millennials More Susceptible to Identity Theft?

Today's generation, best known to everyone as the Millennials, lives in a world that looks far different than that of previous generations. Along with the many social and cultural changes that have taken place within the past decade, the use of technology for virtually everything personally and professionally has become a way of life. Smartphones, tablets, laptops and more let people handle almost any task from anywhere at anytime. However, with this convenience has also come the new problem of identity theft. According to leading network security experts, in 2014, there were over 1,500 data breaches that exposed personal information of more than 1 billion citizens worldwide, with most of those affected living in the United States. Many of these breaches occurred at well-known financial institutions, healthcare institutions, insurance companies and leading retailers, where extremely sensitive personal data is stored. With no end in sight regarding data breaches, many people have wondered if the Millennial generation has found itself more susceptible to identity theft.

The Trusting Generation: Maybe a Bit Too Trusting

What might surprise many people is that despite the seemingly constant threat of data breaches exposing their most sensitive information, Millennials have been and continue to see themselves as a very trusting group of people. Unlike many Baby Boomers, who grew up in an era of telemarketing, corporate scandals, government mistrust, door-to-door salesmen and were generally very distrustful of strangers, Millennials have proven to be just the opposite. According to a recent Gallup poll, over 44 percent of Millennials trust that their private information is being kept safe "most of the time" by the businesses and companies with which they do business. These results, which far surpass the percentage of Baby Boomers and Generation X, show a level of trust and acceptance that concerns many.

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What's the Big Deal?

So why do Millennials exhibit such trust in today's companies and businesses? Experts point to a variety of reasons. The most logical reason is that this generation grew up with computers and mobile devices in their hands from an early age, which made them view these devices as safe ways to communicate. By doing so, they have also assumed their information was already in the hands of strangers and has produced no problems for them thus far. Therefore, they have concluded that whatever security measures are in place must be working, since they have not been the victims of a data breach. But to others who worry about this attitude, they believe complacency has set in with this generation, and that rather than press for stricter security measures, they will simply be willing to keep the status quo.

The Cold, Hard Facts

Whether it is trust or complacency, the facts tend to demonstrate that Millennials are at far greater risk of identity theft than any generation that preceded them. However, many security experts believe Millennials have failed to consider the cold, hard facts of data breaches. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, over half of the data breaches in the past five years have exposed Social Security numbers, putting the identities of millions of Millennials at risk. Along with this, more than 40 percent of healthcare providers have had at least five breaches in the last two years, which shows the problem is not only failing to go away, but may actually be getting worse.

Overcoming Breach Fatigue

Due to data breaches being so commonplace in society, it is believed by researchers that Millennials suffer from what has become known as "breach fatigue." Because these stories are in the news almost daily, Millennials are thought to have become desensitized to the consequences of these problems and have simply chosen to look the other way. Because data breaches are something that cannot be touched, smelled or seen, they are problems that are very hard for most people to grasp. That is, until they receive a credit card statement with numerous charges they failed to make or find their bank accounts emptied thanks to an identity thief. Another reason given for their lack of concern centers around growing up with the internet. Just as previous generations grew up with television and came to trust such institutions as the evening news, Millennials have placed their trust in new forms of technology that still have many pitfalls associated with them.

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Will Millennials See the Light?

As data breaches and identity theft continue to be a part of many people's lives, researchers wonder if Millennials will ever see the light regarding this problem. Many people believe this generation has simply been so busy texting and talking that they have failed to grasp the seriousness of the situation. With the explosion of social media sites that have made it easier than ever to share virtually all aspects of one's life, there has been less and less apprehensiveness about putting personal details online for friends as well as strangers to see. Along with the ease and convenience of online shopping, these situations have created an environment that is more conducive to identities being stolen.


Despite being without a doubt the most tech-savvy generation in history, Millennials still have much to learn when it comes to the dangers of identity theft. While some experts believe they are simply too trusting, others feel they have chosen to disengage themselves from the problem and instead focus on using technology only for their own fun and games. In turn, this attitude may have caused more and more identity thieves to attempt more brazen data breaches, thinking if they can obtain information from this generation those affected will be less likely to notice or pursue action if their identities become compromised. Whether they are easy targets for criminals or just a generation of young people who are too trusting of others, Millennials need to give serious thought not only to information they post online, but also who they interact with when talking or texting. By failing to do so, their susceptibility to identity theft will continue to grow.

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Yael Kent's picture

Yael Kent is a personal finance enthusiast with experience writing about credit cards, credit repair, debt, and more. In addition to being an editor at Creditnet, she has been featured on Yahoo Finance, Reuters, and other financial sites.

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