When we talk of child’s safety, we are mostly concerned about matters like crossing the street, don’t talk to strangers, wearing a bike helmet, and similar issues. But often we forget internet safety, which is of equal importance for our kids as for a grown adult.
What is Child Identity Theft?
Child identity theft is when someone uses the identity of a minor for unethical purposes. It is a real problem and a more common crime than most of us think. A study in 2021 reveals that one in 50 children were identity theft victims in the past year. Children are targeted as ‘blank slates’ to apply for credit or loans as they don’t have credit histories. Identity thieves know how to technically use a kid’s data to apply for credit cards, loans, or government benefits, like using your child’s Social Security Number and can commit fraud. In most cases, identity theft remains unnoticed until the child is an adult. For example, when their student loan application gets rejected or they fail a background check while applying for a job.
How to Prevent Child Identity Theft?
It is scary to consider a child being the target of identity theft, but there are easy and proactive steps to help protect it. The key is to be proactive, not reactive. Spending a little time now can save you in the long run, simultaneously providing your child with a foundation for financial success.
- Consider Freezing Your Child’s Credit
As children are not allowed to get credit till they are 16, a security freeze can be the best way to prevent child identity theft. Freezing credit can block access to your child’s credit reports and rejects any credit application.
Freezing your child’s credit is more complicated and requires time. You have to contact three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, to prove your identity showing that you are the legal parent or guardian, and request a security freeze.
- Keep a Strict Watch on Your Child’s Social Security Number
Never share a child’s SSN with anyone until there is a valid reason. Enquire before filling your child’s SSN on school forms or at a doctor’s office why it is needed and what security measures they take to protect it. Secure the child’s SSN card and all personal information, including name, address, birth certificate, etc. at a secure location. Shred documents before discarding them. You can consider taking the help of professional shredding services for effectively discarding the documents containing the child’s critical information.
- Educate Your Child
Educate your child about online privacy and security. Provide them with a set-guideline for what information should not be shared online. Teach them how to design strong passwords on accounts and devices to help protect their information. Tell your children not to disclose their full name, date of birth, address, and SSN details to everybody.
- Delete Information
There is a very high chance that your computer, smartphones, and other digital media contain personal information about you and your child. Deleting that information before disposing of your old electronic media will not help. To ensure that no information can be retrieved, you must determine the proper procedure for disposing of the information. A professional shredding service provider like USA Shredding Company holds the expertise in shredding all types of devices containing your critical data, including electronic storage media and paper documents.
- Check Your Child’s Credit Report
Children under 18 should not have a credit history unless someone uses personal information fraudulently. Request a child’s credit report and if there is already one, then consider it a red flag. Credit reporting agencies do not create credit reports for minors, so your child might have identity theft at play.
- Limit Accounts in Your Child’s Name
Consider restricting accounts and services in your child’s name. Restrain your child from having social media accounts or messaging apps in their names until they are mature enough. Studies reveal that too much social media exposure can be a major cause of a child’s identity theft and also affects your child’s self-esteem.
Incase your child needs to create their own Instagram, Snapchat, or other social media account, monitor what they share while guiding them on data security.
What to do if Your Child is a Victim of Identity Theft
In case of your child’s identity theft, you should:
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission and report the theft
- Contact local law enforcement to get a police report
- Contact the nationwide credit bureaus and alert them of the fraud
We want our children to have bright futures, but identity theft can be a big hurdle in their future careers. Children who have fraudulent credit accounts may face problems and can damage their credit for years. You should take prudent precautions like applying a security freeze or using a family identifying the problem to help protect your child’s identity theft.