What is Identity Theft and How Can You Protect Your Child from It?

Identity theft can happen to anyone–even to your child. It’s especially important to protect your child’s identity, especially with the rise in high-tech crimes and data breaches. The following article will provide tips on how you can protect your child from identity theft.

What is Identity Theft in Children?

Identity theft is a serious crime that has become more prevalent in recent years. It involves the use of someone else’s personal identifying information for fraudulent purposes. The ID thief can obtain your child’s personal identifying information such as their name, date of birth, and address.

As the child grows up, their personal information becomes more sophisticated and can include social security numbers, bank account information, addresses, and even health-related information. These pieces of personal information allow them to open credit cards in your child’s name or take out loans.

About 1 million children have had their identities stolen. You might not realize that a crime has been committed until you receive a call from a creditor seeking payment for something that you did not purchase yourself. It is also possible to have your identity as an adult stolen by someone who steals your identity when they are younger–particularly if they are arrested before age 18.

Identity Theft
Photo by Iulia Mihailov

Why Should Your Child Be Aware of Identify Theft?

Children are becoming the prime targets in many types of identity theft, most often because they have a clean credit report and no large debts. Children are at higher risk for identity theft because there is not much on their record that would draw attention to an ID thief.

Teaching your child how to handle his or her personal information will help them protect their identities as they enter adulthood.

Social security numbers can be used by identity thieves to apply for credit in your child’s name. Parents should instruct their children not to reveal their social security number unless absolutely necessary and remind them that any unsolicited requests for it are likely fraudulent. Children should always ask permission before giving out personal information, even their address or phone number.

Unsolicited offers of free products or prize draws are another way that criminals may attempt to gather information from your child. Teach him or her not to fill out forms on these websites as the information could eventually end up in the hands of an ID thief.

Protecting kids also means turning a computer into a safe playground by making sure they’re playing age-appropriate games and only visiting sites with parental guidance.

How Can You Protect Your Children from Identity Theft?

While good parenting is the best way to keep your kids safe from identity theft, there are a few steps you can take as well. Make sure their social security number isn’t listed on school or daycare forms – instead fill in 000-00-0000. Share with them common scams that involve giving out personal information online and use this information to teach them how to protect themselves while using the internet.

These tips will help children stay safe until they enter adulthood and can potentially start a credit score of their own.

Scare tactics about identity theft may be more effective at keeping your family secure than simply telling them not to talk to strangers or watch what they do online, but it’s important not to scare them too much so that they don’t learn how to avoid these threats.

Identity Theft computer
Photo by J. Kelly Brito

What are Some Ways to Help Prevent Identify Theft in Children?

There are a few ways you can help your children avoid identity theft.

You should tell them never to give out information, like their social security number and birth date, without first getting permission from you. This is very important because this information can be used by someone else for malicious purposes.

One of the best things you can do to keep your information safe is to put a hold on public records that show where you live in case something happens to you. Credit reporting agencies must place an extended fraud alert on all three bureaus if an identity theft victim contacts them within 90 days of discovering fraud or becoming aware of suspicious activity (like a missing credit card).

An extended fraud report will make it more difficult for anyone trying to apply for credit using your identity. You should also contact the financial institutions where accounts have been opened in your name and close them. This will prevent further damage to your credit scores and establish a paper trail for abusive financial activity.

Children who are educated about the consequences of giving out personal information may be more likely to protect themselves from identity theft as they grow up, so one thing you can do is explain why it’s important to not hand out their social security number or other private information without getting permission first.

Lastly, it’s a good idea to create awareness around online safety. Tell your children that ANYONE can post something online – even if it looks like someone they know – and they need to think twice before sharing any personal information, especially their address.

How Does a Child Become a Victim of Identity Theft?

Children are victimized by identity theft for a number of reasons. Thefts can occur through the mail, at school, or during online activity when children reveal personal information in chat rooms. Statistics, according to IdentityTheft.gov, show that as many as 15% of identity thefts involve kids under 18 years old and children make up about 4 percent of all victims of identity theft.

Stolen social security numbers alone cost our economy an estimated $200 billion annually, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Children need to understand that their social security number is not a secret and there’s no reason for them to give it out without getting permission from someone they trust first (like you).

Ways to Help Your Child Recover from Their Stolen Identity

Identity theft can have big consequences for your child, and this doesn’t just mean they’ll have to deal with fraud. Victims of identity theft often live in fear, change their name or even leave behind old friends because they’re embarrassed about the criminal activity that took place in their names.

If someone has taken your son’s number, it will take some time to sort out the mess this person made of his credit report (which is why it’s important to put a fraud alert on his accounts). The sooner you start working on fixing their credit the better off they’ll be later on in life.

When you add an extended fraud alert to your child’s file at each credit reporting agency you help prevent new accounts from being opened using your child’s social security number. Extended fraud alerts last for one year and can be renewed if necessary.

Another good tip is to put a credit freeze on your child’s file. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open new lines of credit in your son’s name because no one will be able to check his credit unless they have his unique personal identification number (PIN). You may need some help from your state or local police department though if anyone tries to access your child’s information without permission.

Conclusion

Children are a prime target for identity theft, and parents need to take measures to ensure their children’s safety. To help protect your child from becoming an identity theft victim, make sure you keep all of your personal information safe by using strong passwords and not sharing any sensitive data online or over the phone with strangers.

If someone does steal your child’s identity, it can be difficult to recover their name because they have no credit history (yet). However, there are ways that you as a parent can help them get back on track after being robbed of their identity in this way.

Be proactive about protecting yourself against identity theft as an adult too!