The ITRC recently released information regarding the best practices for parents when using a child ID kit. One of the questions we heard over and over was, “Are the companies behind this really scams, or are they just misinformed?” My response was that there are probably a blend of both, but that we at the ITRC had direct experience with a scam company in the southern California area.
A member of the ITRC team, and a mom, was concerned when she received a flyer from her child’s preschool regarding a company coming in to fingerprint the children and provide child ID kits. This company was engaging in all of the practices that we list as red flags in our scam alert…all of them.
As we reviewed the recommendations and service offerings for this company, we were dismayed at how they were taking advantage of parents’ natural fears while potentially creating massive identity theft vulnerabilities for their children. Here are some of the things that tipped us off:
- This company offers to digitize fingerprints and store them for parents, a service for which they did not list the cost; they simply recommended that parents call for a price quote. The company stated that they could provide the fingerprints directly to law enforcement in the event of an emergency, but according to my research and discussions with law enforcement personnel, this is something that parents can do themselves…for free.
- This company offers to provide a wallet-sized copy of the scanned fingerprints so that parents can carry it around with them at all times, a service which costs $86. Apart from being an alarmist tactic that tricks parents into paying, if the parents’ wallet goes missing, so do the fingerprints. This poses an identity theft risk for the child.
- This company also offers parents a digitized set of the child’s fingerprints on a thumb drive, and recommends that parents carry it on their key chain so it is with them at all times. Again, this is an alarmist tactic that puts your child’s identity at risk if your keys are lost or stolen.
Unfortunately, the list of red flags goes on. The ITRC brought this to the attention of law enforcement, who will do their job and investigate. Should they find evidence of a scam, they will bring those responsible to justice. We also feel it is important for the ITRC to do its job, which is to inform parents about how to determine if there is a need to establish a child ID kit for their kids, and if so, how to properly go about it.
This scam is real, and was happening right in our area. If it’s happening here, there’s an excellent chance that it is happening elsewhere.
Now that summer is here you may think this risk isn’t as great—school is out, after all. But during the summer months, our children attend alternate day care programs, summer camps, and a host of other enrichment activities. Scammers don’t care that school is out; they will go to those places as well. And if your care providers don’t know what to look for, they could be duped into helping scammers reach new victims. Don’t get me wrong, the professionals who engage these companies will almost always have good intentions, and think they’re doing something to ensure your child’s safety. Instead, it’s the scammers that we need to blame for taking advantage of those good intentions.
What can you do as a parent? Read the scam alert so you know what the red flags are. Understand how to determine if a company is a legitimate service provider or a scam (via this helpful fact sheet). And share this information with other parents, your school, afterschool programs, and daycare providers so they can make the right decision as well. In other words, the best thing you can do right now is to:Read it. Understand it. Share it.