5 Tips for Preventing Child Identity Theft
Think your child isn’t at risk of becoming yet another victim of identity theft? Think again. The FTC estimates that over 140,000 children are victims of identity theft every year, and the Carnegie Mellon University CyLab Child ID Theft Report showed that children are 51 times more likely to experience identity theft than adults.
Preventing child identity theft can be difficult because kids are easier targets than adults. Their Social Security numbers are unused so it’s easier to associate different names and birth dates with them. Their identities are typically a blank slate and the likelihood of discovery is low since most parents don’t monitor their children’s identities.
The crime can go unnoticed for many years, often until they try to open a bank account or apply for a driver’s license, job, student loan, or credit as a young adult. By then their identity could have been stolen and sold multiple times by thieves using it to obtain credit cards, insurance, medical services, employment, housing, passports, government benefits, and loans. The list goes on and on.
Safeguarding your child from identity theft begins with recognizing the signs, such as receiving unsolicited credit card offers or bills in his or her name. Here are five tips for preventing child identity theft:
1.Don’t disclose Social Security numbers. Your child’s Social Security number is the most important piece of personal information to protect. If an organization requests your child’s Social Security number, ask how it will be used and how it will be protected. As the prevalence of identity theft has grown, providing a Social Security number is typically not required unless there are tax implications.
2.Request your child’s credit report. The credit reporting agencies don’t keep credit reports for minors because they aren’t allowed to open lines of credit. If your child has a credit report, you know identity theft has been committed.
3.Get a crosscut shredder and put it to work. Shred all documents you receive in the mail that contain your child’s personal information. Remember that mail such as unsolicited credit card offers are indicators of child identity theft, so shred these documents right away. (Don’t forget to do this for yourself as well.) Then contact the credit bureaus to see if there’s a credit file in your child’s name.
4.Don’t carry around your child’s Social Security number. Preventing child identity theft also includes locking up his or her Social Security number with other important personal identity records such as birth certificates and passports, and only access it when you absolutely need it. Locking up all private information is generally a good idea to prevent houseguests or babysitters from viewing it.
5.Monitor your child’s social networking accounts. Identity thieves troll social networking websites, so make sure private information like date of birth, address, and names of family members are not included in profiles. It’s also a good idea to set privacy settings so your child’s profile can only be viewed by friends and family.