Child Identity Theft: What It Is and How to Prevent It
Most people don’t consider identity theft of their children until it’s too late. You need to be aware of this growing crime now before your child’s identification is stolen. Children are actually more at risk of having their identity stolen than adults and for good reason. Parents rarely think to double-check their child’s credit score, so it’s very easy for someone to make good use of it in the meantime.
Over one million children had their identity stolen in 2017, and out of those, two-thirds were under the age of seven. Over half of the perpetrators were someone the child knew. It’s easy for a friend or family member to collect enough information on someone they know in order to steal their Social Security number (“SSN”). In fact, 33% of SSN thieves are family friends, and 18% are a spouse or partner.
The criminals who steal your child’s identity use that information to apply for everything that requires a SSN. This includes bank accounts, credit cards, and even benefits from the government. This can have a major impact on a person’s credit score and records. Imagine your child being a recent college graduate, trying to apply for their first job, and they are denied due to a bad credit rating that no one knew existed. Consider the headaches that your child will have to go through as a result.
Checking for Identity Theft
How do you know if your child’s identity has been stolen? The first step is to check if your child has a credit report. You can request free credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com. Most children won’t have a report since they haven’t applied for credit. If your child does have a credit report and you suspect this is an error, you should report the theft immediately to IdentityTheft.gov.
It’s also important to check your child’s SSN annually. You can do so through the Social Security Administration. Since numbers are randomized and have been since 2011, it’s possible for someone to use one before it’s been assigned. Your child could receive a number that is already being used elsewhere.
Keep an eye on the mail. If your child is getting credit card offers, especially pre-approved ones, someone may have applied in their name. If you notice anything odd or unusual, you need to do some investigating.
How to Protect Your Child’s Identity
Children aren’t really in the position to protect their own identity, especially when they are young. However, when they are old enough, they should be taught the basics. Make sure your child knows not to give out identifying information online and parents should not be sharing this information either. Passwords should not be shared, and they should be stored someplace safe like a password vault.
Freeze Their Credit
If you want to make it more difficult for an identity thief to open an account using your child’s identity, freeze their credit. When the credit is frozen, it will not affect the child’s score and can be lifted once the child is of age.
Keep Personal Information Secret
Any paperwork with personal information regarding your child should be put away in a safe place or shredded. If you have electronic records, be sure they are secure. This means every computing device (i.e. computers, tablets, phones, routers, etc.) in your home should be secured. If you’re not sure how to do that, you may prefer to use a company that will help harden these devices for you. Experts can protect your devices and ensure that your electronic records are safe from hackers.
You’ll need to be particularly careful about potential risk factors. A break-in or security breach at any place of business that has your child’s information can be a risk. This includes a doctor’s office, dentist, school, or even a toy company. If they have information and do not have proper security controls in place, that information could be breached.
Try Alternatives to Social Security Numbers
When filling out forms for your child, ask about the safety precautions that are taken with the information. What is the agency doing to protect your child’s personal data? If they don’t give you satisfactory answers, it may be best to look elsewhere for service. You can also ask if there is an alternative to providing a SSN. No one outside your trusted circle should have access to SSNs unless it is absolutely necessary. If you do give it out, make sure the information is safe and that the person or entity is truly trustworthy.
You Have the Power to Protect Your Child’s Identity
Security isn’t just for adults when it comes to identity theft. Your child is equally at risk, and precautions must be taken. In the end, it’s up to parents to make sure their child’s identity is safe. If you’re still confused about what you need to do, please contact us— the BLACKCLOAK Team is here to help.