Although children are not often considered when one thinks of identity theft, a child’s blank and clean credit history makes them ideal targets for identity thieves. Children are generally more difficult for thieves to target because there are not nearly as many documents floating around with their personal information on it as there are for working adults. However, that does not mean children are entirely safe; and a good thief knows where to look to find the information they need to steal a child’s identity.
Just like with an adult, should a child have their identity stolen a thief could use their information for a number of purposes, including applying for loans, opening new checking/savings accounts and lines of credit, applying for government benefits, and even for renting and leasing purposes. Because parents generally don’t check their children’s credit reports, the crime can go unnoticed for years.
As a parent, you are responsible for protecting your child’s credit. Keeping the following tips in mind can help keep your children protected from identity theft.
1) Talk to your kids about online sharing and password protection.
As children become more tech savvy they gain access to more and more sophisticated online devices. Being online is commonplace now for most children, and although the web can be a great place to learn and find entertainment it can also be a dangerous place for kids if they don’t understand the importance of protecting their personal information.
One of the way’s children can put themselves in harms way is through sharing information online. There are seemingly endless opportunities for children to provide their information to online websites and applications. It is important that you set clear rules for what information he or she can share online. Show your child how to use the privacy settings on social media websites and how to protect a smartphone with a password.
There will be times when you will be required to share your child’s documents or information online. In these instances make sure you are accessing a website with a secure connection. Look for a URL that begins with “https” and a lock icon in the address bar – as this means the website is secure.
2) Only give away your child’s personal information when you absolutely have to.
There are places and instances that you will absolutely have to provide your child’s personal information, such as at the doctors office or at their school. However, you can ask about using something else an identifier for your child, or see if they will allow you to provide only the last four digits of the Social Security number.
Depending on where you live, many schools are required by the state to keep records of personal information. If that’s the case, ask how the information will be protected and who will be able to access it. Take time to become familiar with the laws that protect your children’s information, such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. This Act gives parents of school-age kids the right to opt out of sharing information with third parties.
3) Secure important documents.
Like other documents you may posses which are important to keep secure, your child’s personal documents should also be considered crucial to keep in a secure location. Documents like your child’s Social Security card, birth certificate, and passport should all be stored in a safe and secure spot.
Misplacing these documents or making them easily accessible in your home could put your child at risk. Sadly, many times when a child is a victim of identity theft, it is a relative or someone familiar to the victim who committed the identity theft. According to the Identity Theft Assistance Center’s 2012 Child Identity Fraud Report, 27 percent of respondents reported knowing the individual responsible for the crime.
4) Monitor your child’s credit.
Often time because of a child’s age, parents don’t ever consider running a credit report or even monitoring their child’s credit. However, this could be the single most important thing that you can do to help protect your child. Left undetected, child identity theft can be extremely harmful to your child’s future financial health. By being proactive and taking steps to monitor your child’s credit, you can catch any attempts at theft early and stop it before it gets out of control. For additional protection, you may be able to place a fraud alert or credit freeze on their account.