In 2018, more than one million children were victims of identity theft. Keep in mind these are only reported cases meaning there are most likely far more victims than we know. As a parent, it’s important to think about how can we help protect our children from identity theft and the years of repercussions that typically stem from it. The truth is, no person or product can completely prevent identity theft of children or adults. While this might seem like a daunting realization, there are preventative measures and safety tactics to help minimize your child’s risk. Keep reading to learn more.

Why Target Children?

Unfortunately, children have always been viable targets for identity theft. The fact that kids do not take out lines of credit until later in life and are not actively monitoring their credit means criminals can use their untapped Social Security number to obtain credit and abuse it for years, unnoticed. Child identity theft can be committed in a variety of ways. In some cases, the child’s own parent or legal guardian, who has easy access to their PII, might use it to help ends meet and with the right intentions. Whereas in other cases, it is used with malicious intent. Another common way that a child’s PII is compromised is through data breaches, phishing scams and other methods. Criminals will specifically target databases where they know children’s PII is housed like pediatrician offices, daycare centers and summer camps.

Preventative Tips

Only Supply Necessary Information

Often child programs or service providers ask parents for a long list of information regarding their child. Before filling this out, stop and ask three questions: Why is this information needed? How will you protect my child’s data? What happens if I do not provide it?

Often times, summer camps and daycare centers do not need sensitive information about your child, like their Social Security number. Chances are small business like these might not also have the proper cybersecurity in place to store your child’s information safely. Always think twice about providing sensitive information to any business, including those who seem reputable like your pediatrician’s office.

Place a Credit Freeze

To help stop criminals from taking out a line of credit in your child’s name, parents can freeze their child’s credit with the three main credit reporting agencies (CRAs). Placing a freeze helps prevent credit, loans and services from being approved in your name (or your child’s name) without your consent. Helping protect the financial aspect of a child’s identity is only one factor, but can be greatly beneficial. Experian also offers a one-time free child ID scan to help determine where your child’s identity could be used fraudulently.

Avoid Creating Vulnerabilities

Sometimes, even with the best intentions, parents can create vulnerabilities for their children’s identity. This can happen by trusting the wrong person with PII, supplying information to breached businesses or leaving documents unprotected.

One vulnerability specifically comes to mind, a child ID kit. A child ID kit is recommended by law enforcement and child advocate agencies in case of the unfortunate event of a missing child. It contains things like an updated photograph and fingerprints of your child to provide to law enforcement in an emergency. Criminals have taken advantage of parents’ natural instinct to protect their children and offer child ID kit packages that expose children’s information. It is important to note that everything in a child ID kit is completely doable by a parent and does not cost anything to complete or provide to law enforcement, a third party is not needed whatsoever. If you do create an ID kit for your children, make sure to store it in a secure, safe location and do not trust others with the information.

Of course, the Identity Theft Resource Center is here to help. Speak to an identity theft advisor for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Experian proudly provides financial support to the Identity Theft Resource Center.


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For years, crimes like identity theft, scams and fraud have targeted residents in different states all across the country. Sometimes the crimes are simply based on opportunity, such as a large-scale data breach of a major company; in that case, the locations of the victims can seem to be somewhat random. Other crimes, however, have targeted residents of specific states, and the reasons for this kind of highly-specific targeting can vary.

Florida has the long-standing yet dubious honor of being one of the most targeted states over the past few years. The state has often topped the list for identity-related crimes, and 2018 was no different. The state ranked number one for fraud reports to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and number four for identity theft reports. These numbers are fairly typical for Florida’s ranking in those crimes.

According to different sources, there are a number of reasons why Florida might be such a hot target for criminals. These include state and local government structuring, the resort construction and tourism industries, a large retiree population and the high-density of the state’s population in numerous metro areas. Last year’s total volume of reports to the FTC was over 205,000 from Florida alone, and the average losses from that state were $400 per victim.

An article in the Sun-Sentinel explains, “Thieves and scammers apparently are attracted to Florida for a host of reasons: Its lack of state income tax means less scrutiny from state officials. Its transient population makes it easier for hit-and-run operators to blend in. Its large senior population provides a tempting target of savings and vulnerabilities. And its fast development means a lot of new money floating around.”

Of course, identity theft and fraud crimes are broad categories that encompass a lot of different forms of attack. Criminals can rely on highly-profitable but hard to trace tactics such as benefits fraud, credit card and new account fraud, account takeover and imposter scams. A report by Security.org based on the FTC’s data found that fake debt collection scams were the most commonly reported method of attack at 29 percent (approximately 71,000 reports); meanwhile, reports of identity theft and its related crimes made up another 15 percent, or 38,000 reports. There is a seemingly endless variety of ways that someone with a little bit of know-how can target someone in this way, as these findings have shown.

Fortunately, a lot of the ways that criminals target Florida residents—which truthfully, can all be a threat no matter where you live—can often be thwarted by developing an air of caution. Ignoring requests for your private sensitive information, for example, and refusing to make payments over the phone or via email can head off a lot of these attacks. Securing your accounts with strong, unique passwords can also help, along with changing those passwords frequently. Finally, helping others by spreading the word about common scams and fraud attempts can help protect those around you, which can in turn help protect you.

Of course, the Identity Theft Resource Center is always here to help. If you’re a victim of identity theft or have questions about scams and other issues, speak to an identity theft advisor for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.


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If you are one of the consumers who have placed a freeze on their credit reports, we commend you for taking your identity protection seriously. As an expert in the field of identity theft and crime, ITRC recommends credit freezes for certain potential and existing victims of identity crime. While a credit freeze provides almost exclusively benefits, there is a down side consumers should be aware of: a credit freeze can block your Medicare application.

Individuals applying for Medicare benefits used to rely on an easy process through the Social Security administration in order to apply. Now, however, in an effort to protect people’s sensitive data, the SSA requires a whole new account called a My Social Security account to apply for Medicare.

Consumers cannot create a My Social Security account without unfreezing their credit reports. Credit freezes can be thawed so this is a matter of minor inconvenience, but it does take additional time. If applying for Medicare online, consumers will need to first thaw their credit reports and plan for the additional time this will take.

There is some good news, if you need to unfreeze your credit report the SSA only needs access to your Equifax report at this time. You will not need to unlock the other two credit reports if you have already frozen those.

If you are in a time crunch for Medicare application, visit your local SSA office and apply in person. There is a small laundry list of items you will need to bring with you as proof of your identity, of course, but usually a valid driver’s license and passport will be enough. ITRC recommends calling ahead to determine the needed documents to help save time and streamline the process.

Remember, after your Medicare application is accepted re-freeze your credit report with Equifax to help minimize the likelihood of identity theft. While you are taking some time to address your frozen report, remember to request your once-a-year free copy of your credit report in order to look for any unusual activity that could be a sign of identity theft or fraud.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

In fact, of the 1,255 total data breaches recorded by the Identity Theft Resource Center in 2018, 150 of were because of the mismanagement of information by employees tasked with protecting it. That means 12% of the data breaches were the direct result of mistakes in handling sensitive information, leading to 1,131,288 records exposed and potentially costly consequences for the companies involved.

April is Records and Information Management Month, and while it might not conjure up holiday-themed festive images the same way Christmas does, it is a great reminder that your information and your identity are only as safe as the people who have their hands on it.

What does it mean to mishandle information? There are numerous ways that information can accidentally fall into the wrong hands. It may be losing a flash drive or laptop with customer records on it, the theft of company hardware like laptops or even servers, reusing a weak password that lets hackers easily break into a system or failing to password protect a database of records in the first place. In other cases, the exposure resulted from improper disposal of sensitive information, such as throwing paper records in an unsecured garbage dumpster instead of shredding. In many cases, employees may fall for phishing attempts or respond to requests that appear to come from someone within the company but are actually sent by malicious imposters.

In order to protect all of the sensitive information that businesses gather and store, it is important to understand how to secure it and what can happen if it is compromised. It often starts with a solid company-wide computer use policy that outlines exactly how things like password security, email responses and data access are supposed to be enforced. Helping every employee understand the ramifications of mishandling information is important, too. Finally, a good “delete” housekeeping from time to time to permanently destroy any outdated stored records can thwart a lot of security problems before they arise.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC

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No matter where your spring break plans have taken you, it is important to remember that the security practices you use while at home are even more important when you are on the road. Also, those same good habits that protect you while traveling are just as crucial when you are relaxing at home.

Booking Your Trip and Hotel

No matter when you plan to go, finding affordable travel arrangements can be a minefield of potential scams and fraud. Do not be swayed by flashy sidebar ads or “act now” special offers, as these are rarely a good deal and can lead to identity theft. Of course, old-fashioned scams like bait-and-switch schemes in which your condo does not actually exist or your reservation is not real are still a major threat.

Check Your Tech

Your technology can leave you very vulnerable during an out-of-town getaway. From connecting over unsecured public Wi-Fi to having your device stolen and infiltrated, there are a lot of ways that malicious actors can get their hands on your sensitive information. Make sure you turn off the Wi-Fi on your mobile devices when you do not need it, only go online over a secured, password protected connection and make sure you have passcode protected your phone or tablet. When you are not using your important apps like email and social media, it is a good idea to log out of those too.

Bring the Receipts

Make sure you hang onto receipts while you are out of town. First, it will help you stay money-aware and avoid overspending if you keep tabs each day on how much you have spent. More importantly, you’ will have paper proof to compare to your bank or credit card statement when you get home. If anyone has copied your card and used your information, you will know at a glance.

Activate Alerts from Your Bank

By taking advantage of security tools offered by your financial institution, you can be informed the second any unusual activity occurs with your cards or your account. Card Not Present alerts, for example, will text or email you the moment someone uses your card number online. Some banks will even call if a physical card transaction occurs in a location too far outside your billing zip code. These can help you take immediate action against theft and fraud.

Old School Understanding

Remember, depending on where you travel there are a lot of scams that have been around for decades. You do not want to take extreme action to protect your identity, then fall for something as simple as a common pickpocket. Stay on top of the kinds of threats you are likely to encounter so you can avoid them.

The most important security step you can take happens when you get home. That is the time to post any photos and videos online—not while you are still away—but it is also the time to take inventory of your financial accounts and your identity. It cannot hurt to order one of your three free annual credit reports a few weeks after your trip is over, just to look for suspicious activity. If you begin receiving a higher volume of scam calls and emails, that may also be a sign that something has happened to your security. Check out the available tools to monitor your identity and reach out to the Identity Theft Resource Center for help if necessary.  


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Identity theft is not one single type of crime. There are many different ways a criminal can use your information, such as applying for government benefits, getting a job under your Social Security number, receiving medical care or prescription drugs in your name, and of course, the financial aspects. But stealing from your bank account or signing up for a new credit card in your name are just scraping the surface when it comes to the harm identity theft can cause.

Tax identity theft occurs when someone uses your compromised information to file a tax return in your name. They fudge the numbers, enter an unrelated refund dispersal option like a prepaid debit card, and make off with your money before you ever know that anything has gone wrong.

How do they get their hands on your data in the first place? There are many ways, including:

  • Imposter scams
  • Data breaches
  • Stolen mail or W-2s
  • CEO/HR phishing scams
  • Corrupt insiders/tax preparation services
  • Unsecured and public Wi-Fi hotspots
  • Social Security number that is lost, stolen or compromised

Of course, it’s just as easy for a criminal to purchase your previously stolen information online, then use it to file a fraudulent return.

How can you know if someone has filed a return with your stolen information? Again, you may find out in different ways, but one common way is for the IRS to inform you.

They don’t usually call you up and say, “Guess what? Someone stole your identity!” Instead, it’s a lot more likely that the IRS will reject your legitimate tax return because someone has already filed using your Social Security number. Another way is someone not necessarily filing the entire return in your name, but rather claiming your dependents on their return if they’ve stolen your kids’ identities; in that case, the IRS will still contact you about the duplicated dependents. Finally, the IRS might contact you if someone files a business return involving your identity as an employee and the agency wants you to answer for the unreported income you supposedly earned but didn’t list on your return.

The fact of tax identity theft is that hundreds of millions of consumers’ identities have been compromised in different data breaches over the years. That means no one is immune from the threat of having their tax refund stolen.

Fortunately, there are steps that consumers can take to minimize their risk. The Identity Theft Resource Center provides free victim remediation assistance through its call-center by dialing (888) 400-5530. The ITRC will host an informative Twitter chat with the Federal Trade Commission to provide insight into protecting yourself. The live event will take place on March 8, 2019, at 8 am PT/11 am ET, and will discuss the importance of protecting yourself against tax-related identity theft. Use #IDTheftChat to join!

If you can’t take part that day, you can still read all of the tweets later on by searching for the hashtag. For more questions and answers about tax identity theft, read our tips here.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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Sparking joy has taken on a whole new meaning thanks to the KonMari method of tidying up. Cleaning up your physical and digital life are some ways to minimize your risk of identity theft.

Marie Kondo is taking the world by storm with the premise of decluttering your life, tidying up your home and work spaces, and basically living by a simple principle: if it doesn’t “spark joy,” you don’t need it. The mindset behind the so-called KonMari method has proven so effective that second-hand stores and thrift shops are seeing record-setting levels of donations.

This decluttering concept can be applied to physical possessions, but you should also consider its ability to benefit other areas of life. You might clean up your email inbox or desktop for example. There’s another level of protection that consumers can take from this “spark joy” concept, and that’s keeping their identities out of a criminal’s hands.

Before You Begin

There are a number of steps that can help you organize your identity before you ever have to deal with cluttering consequences. These would include things like halting subscriptions to magazines and newspapers you don’t read, blocking credit card offers with your financial institutions, going “paperless” on bills and bank statements, and more. By ensuring these things don’t arrive at your home, you’ll have less clutter to deal with and fewer security pitfalls that a thief could exploit.

Another possible vulnerability is your email inbox. Adopt the good habit of not just deleting unwanted emails, but actively unsubscribing from them. This will require you to open them, scroll all the way down, and click unsubscribe. Do NOT follow this procedure for emails that appear to be scam attempts, as clicking a link can redirect you to a harmful website or install malicious software on your computer. Are you holding on to an old email address?

Physical Mail

As for identity tidying in your home or workplace, that can seem very daunting. Don’t worry, it’s not. Following commonly shared methods from organizational experts like Marie Kondo and others, you can start by creating “piles.” Establish a temporary spot for everything that could be linked back to your identity: a pile for bills, a pile for junk mail, a pile for important papers, and more.

The bills: your monthly bills must be accessible but protected, so find out where you are most likely to see them but keep others from coming across them. As you pay a bill, shred the remaining mailer portion so that you don’t end up with random piles of paper that will need to be addressed later.

Junk mail: it’s too easy to toss some junk mail on the counter and think you’ll deal with it later. It’s even easier to throw it in the trash unopened, but that could lead a dumpster-diving identity thief to pieces of your overall data puzzle. Keep a basket near your cross-cut shredder to stash these items until you’re ready to shred.

Important papers: a lot of people would agree that tax documents, health insurance statements, and other key papers don’t exactly “spark joy” and therefore should be done away with immediately. However, that’s not wise. What is useful, though, is investing in a small file cabinet or file box where important papers can be stored when not needed. It’s important that this file be accessible in an emergency but not left out in the open where anyone could rifle through it.

Digital Clutter

It’s easy to forget that your identity is vulnerable online, too, but the same principles behind decluttering can help you in the virtual space. Investing in an external hard drive or cloud-based storage subscription can protect the things you want to keep while getting them out of your physical space. Even better, if there’s a paper you might need at a later date, you can simply photograph it or scan it, then store it in these outside spaces. That way, you can discard the original but retain a protected printable copy if you need it.

Mobile Apps & Privacy Settings: First, take a look at all of the apps on your device – are there any you’re not using anymore? Delete those.

Second, visit your mobile device settings to see what information your applications are collecting from you and update them for increased privacy. For example, you might need to let a map app see your location for example, but does it need to be active all the time or just when in use? Same thing for photos, do all of your apps need access to your media library? Definitely not. It’s also a good time to run any updates for your phone software or apps. Read the descriptions carefully and note any cybersecurity language before choosing to update.

You should also be concerned about the permissions you allow (see trustjacking) the mobile apps on your device. Through these apps, third-parties might be tracking information about you that you might not realize like your location, search history and even your photos. Even if they aren’t actively using this collected data, they’re still storing it which can leave your personal information vulnerable to cyberattacks should the third-party fall victim to a breach.

Also, think twice before discarding that old device. Be sure to reset to your factory settings.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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From doctor’s offices and financial institutions to college university admittance applications and summer camp registrations, the request for your Social Security number (SSN) has become commonplace. In fact, it’s become such a standard request that many individuals willingly provide this number without hesitation and without really thinking about the consequences behind this, one of which being an increased risk of identity theft.

Social Security numbers hold one of the keys to your identity. With it, you can open a new line of credit, gain employment, receive health insurance and file taxes. Thieves also know the power behind this nine-digit number, which is why it’s one of the most highly sought after pieces of personal information. There are a variety of ways that thieves attempt to obtain SSNs, and they include more low-tech methods like sifting through your trash, stealing a wallet, purse or laptop; or using more sophisticated ways like phishing emails and texts, scam calls and via data breaches. For example, there were nearly 158 million social security numbers exposed in 2017 due to data breaches.

While the exposure of your SSN is not entirely preventable – data breaches are a perfect example of this – consumers should refrain from giving it out unnecessarily to minimize their risks of identity theft. Basically, the frequency at which the number is exposed – whether intentional or unintentional, the higher the probability that it will be compromised. Here are some tips to help you protect your SSN and become a better steward of your identity:

Be in the Know – Educate yourself on the types of scenarios that require you to provide your Social Security number so that you can decide ahead of time whether or not you should provide it. Here is a list of situations that require your SSN:

  • Internal Revenue Service for tax returns and federal loans
  • Employers for wage and tax reporting purposes
  • Financial institutions for monetary and credit transactions
  • Veterans Administration as a hospital admission number
  • Department of Labor for workers’ compensation
  • Department of Education for student loans
  • Entities that administer any tax, general public assistance, motor vehicle or driver’s license law
  • Child support enforcement
  • Food Stamps
  • Medicaid
  • Unemployment Compensation

Don’t be afraid to ask – When your Social Security number is requested it’s best to ask the requestor some additional information to better understand whether you absolutely need to provide your SSN and if so, how they plan to protect it. In some instances, you may be able to provide an alternative like a driver’s license. Keep in mind that if you don’t provide your SSN, some entities may refuse to provide the services requested. Some questions to consider asking are:

  • Why does the company need this information (what law or reason make this a requirement)?
  • How do you protect this information?
  • What will happen if I don’t provide it?
  • Is there is an alternative to providing my SSN (driver’s license, etc.)?

Protect your physical card, too – It’s crucial to not only correctly safeguard your social security number but to also protect the physical card to the best of your ability. This includes storing it in a secure place (like a locked safe) and by not carrying it around in your wallet or purse.

Be leery of scammers – Scammers may pose as the IRS, the Social Security Administration and others to attempt to gain access to your SSN and they may do so over the phone, through email, text or even through social media platforms. To stay safe, never provide your SSN or other sensitive information on a call that you didn’t initiate. Also, don’t automatically give out your Social Security number via email, text or social media messages, even if it looks like a legitimate business requesting it. Instead, call the entity directly by locating their number on their official website, on the back of your card or even on a recent bill.

If you know your social security number has been compromised, contact our advisors using our toll-free number (888-400-5530) and they can inform you about the necessary steps to take to resolve the issue. You can also reach us using our live chat feature.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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With more than 60 million reported cases of identity theft in the US to date, there is no single demographic that is immune from the threat. In fact, the opposite is true; some age groups or even residents in certain states are more likely than the rest of the population to face identity theft. Unfortunately, the more natural prey you appear to a criminal, the more of a target you become.

January is Braille Literacy Month in honor of Louis Braille’s birthday, so it’s a good time to understand how the threat of identity theft manifests among people with low-vision or vision loss, as well as share some ways to help reduce the risk of becoming a victim. Fortunately, many of the same steps are worthwhile for all consumers, not just a single risk group.

First, the Identity Theft Resource Center partnered with the Braille Institute on a highly informative session explicitly aimed at low-vision and vision-impaired people on how to reduce your risk and overcoming the aftermath of identity theft should it occur.

Also, Empish J Thomas of Vision Aware has shared a very insightful look at her own experiences with identity theft. The account includes key information about issues and obstacles that could make low-vision consumers more of a target for identity theft, as well as ways to overcome those problems. For example, junk mail and carrying extra credit cards could lead to theft without the owner’s knowledge, so Thomas recommends having a core group of trustworthy people who can intervene.

Unfortunately, common identity theft attempts can prove to be even more of a challenge for visually impaired people. Telemarketers and door-to-door salesmen, for example, can turn out not to be who you thought they were; there’s also the crime of opportunity in which the individual might not have set out to steal your data but seizes the chance after discovering your vision issues.

Here are some steps to protect any consumer, but especially those with visual impairments or low vision:

1. Do not take anything at surface value, whether it’s a phone call, letter, or email.

Those can easily be spoofed or falsified, so make it a good habit to never give out your personal data to someone who requests it.

2. Shred all junk mail, health insurance statements, medical and credit card bills, and more.

If you need to rely on a volunteer or trusted friend to help you decide what needs to be shredded, make sure your items are in a safe place until you can seek that help.

3. Install a robust security suite on your computer and mobile devices.

Remember, antivirus isn’t enough anymore, but there are some very affordable products that protect you from a broader range of threats.

4. Request a free copy of your credit report each year. 

And be sure to study it carefully for suspicious activity. Take action immediately if something is uncertain or out of place.

5. If you do suspect you’ve been the victim of identity theft, get help immediately.

The ITRC and the Federal Trade Commission both have avenues for assistance, and specialty organizations like AARP and the Better Business Bureau can also start you in the right direction.

Again, these things and other security steps are good habits for any consumer, so make it a practice to protect yourself at all times.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.


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