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.
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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