The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) hosts an annual celebratory event dedicated to children and families, one that encourages people to look at a wide variety of life aspects that pertain to young children. Week of the Young Child asks stakeholders and sponsors across many different fields to share ideas and contribute to the greater understanding of raising healthy, happy children in the 21st century.
For the advocates at the Identity Theft Resource Center, that means making sure parents and guardians are armed with accurate information concerning child identity theft. This form of the crime is particularly upsetting —not that any type of identity theft is less than devastating—because far too many kids only find out that they are victims when they’re trying to get a job, secure financial aid, buy their first car, or other similar adult experience. That means the goals they’ve set for themselves and worked hard for will evaporate in front of their very eyes.
This ITRC Fact Sheet will help you recognize some of the possible signs that your child’s identity has been stolen, as well as outline some of your options for taking action. But there are some things you can do to reduce your child’s risk of identity theft and be on the lookout for possible theft over the years.
1. Avoid oversharing
Everywhere you look, someone has their hand out, asking for your personal information. This is especially true for your children, as schools, doctor’s offices, sports programs, and other organizations tend to request large amounts of information. You have to remember that there’s nothing wrong with holding some of it back. Unless there’s a clear need for it, don’t turn it over.
Some sports programs have asked for Social Security numbers on children’s information sheets. School field trip forms sometimes request your health insurance policy number and group number. Do not supply sensitive information unless you are assured that it is vitally necessary for participation and that it will be safeguarded (don’t forget to ask how they plan to protect the information, and who will be allowed to see it).
2. Teach your children to keep their information safe
It’s not enough to look over those forms and decide what information to share. You need to talk to your kids about why you don’t give out their information. A lot of the information that gets gathered up on your kids can happen when you’re not there, such as their birthdate or their cell phone number. Those might seem harmless enough, but those two pieces of information are often used in phishing attacks.
What would your kids do if someone asked for their mother’s maiden name? Would they even know why they shouldn’t share it, or what someone could do with it? It’s important to keep the conversation going at every age; just like other sensitive topics that parents have to talk to their kids about, privacy is one where a number of information increases as the child matures.
3. Securing social media
This one might be a little harder to discuss, but good internet behavior is a topic parents have to talk about frequently. While most parents might be thinking about avoiding sexual predators or cyberbullying when they talk about online safety, personal privacy is every bit as important.
Talking to your kids about not clicking on suspicious links or popups is important, as is showing them how to spot scams and fake messages. What if you suspect your child might already be a victim of identity theft? There are steps you can take. Contacting the three major credit reporting agencies—TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian—can help you get started uncovering any issues and resolving them. Remember, if you do find out that your child is the victim of identity theft, time is of the essence. It’s vital that you begin resolving the matter immediately, starting with your local police department. The longer you allow the issue to continue, the worse it can be for your child.
If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, 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.