For adults who experience account fraud—such as when someone uses their stolen credit card number or an online account—there are a lot of built-in safeguards that can work in their favor. While it’s not the norm for everyone, a significant number of consumers usually discover the fraud themselves or through an alert of some kind from their issuing financial company.

But that’s not the case for young adults, according to a new study by Javelin Research and Strategy. In the overwhelming majority of identity theft cases involving consumers ages 18 to 24, the fraud was only discovered after debt collectors began calling or after they were denied credit through a legitimate application.

This unfortunate type of discovery is in contrast to the long-standing recommendation that consumers monitor their credit scores for suspicious activity, look over their financial statements for fraudulent charges, and take other preventive measures. Another common method of fraud discovery is through automatic alerts; consumers who bank with certain financial institutions can request text message or emailed alerts that inform them any time new charges appear in their accounts. This is especially important to setup for online, or “card not present,” transactions.

But the method of fraud discovery isn’t the only difference between young adult consumers and their older purchasing peers. One of the key differences for consumers this age is how the fraud occurred in the first place. Young adults may actually have been long-time victims of identity theft, dating back to when they were children with clean credit records and no purchasing power of their own. Once they move on to college, the military, or the workforce, their personal papers and their online accounts can become even more accessible to roommates, classmates, friends on social media, co-workers, or fellow recruits.

This statistic highlights a serious safety gap between the different age groups, and it’s one that has got to be narrowed. With better awareness of identity theft and the avenues by which thieves steal personal identifiable information, more young consumers can work to secure their data. Developing good security habits—like shredding documents and statements, remaining alert about scams and fraud, and avoiding oversharing on social media—will also go a long way towards preventing identity theft. Finally, getting into the practice of monitoring account statements and requesting credit reports will help consumers of any age be watchful of issues before they become serious.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.