Identity theft is one of the scariest forms of theft, often causing financial damage that can last for years to come. What many parents don’t realize is that children are just as susceptible to becoming victims of identity theft as adults, regardless of their age.
In fact, thieves are very interested in the identities of children as they are a clean slate than can be used to easily commit fraud. Furthermore, the sad reality is that many don’t find out their identity has been stolen until they are young adults and are applying for credit for the first time, only to find a poor credit score, as well as debt and/or accounts in their name.
Experian, the nation’s largest credit bureau, recently polled consumers nationally on the topic of child identity theft and found that parents are indeed concerned (80 percent), but many do not know what to do to protect their children from becoming victims. In fact, many are engaging in behavior that directly puts their children at risk – without realizing it.
As parents, you protect your kids from every other danger, why not identity thieves? Below, you’ll find our tips for protecting your child.
Protect their social security number
A child’s pristine SSN is like gold for identity thieves. Once a skilled identity thief has a child’s number they can create a whole new identity and use that number to set up credit accounts, take out loans and of course, rack up debt
Don’t overshare online
Details such as your child’s full name, address and date of birth can be enough to get an identity thief started. The web is a happy hunting ground for identity thieves, so avoid making your child’s personal information available online.
Safeguard your home
It’s important to keep personal information under lock and key and away from prying eyes. This includes your child’s Social Security number, birth certificate, passport or other sensitive information.
Monitor for suspicious activity
Watch out for pre-approved credit cards, bills for unfamiliar services or unexpected medical collection notices in your child’s name. Some credit monitoring products will alert you of activity associated with your child.
Educate your children
Identity thieves troll social networking websites in search of potential victims. If your child is old enough to use the internet and electronic devices in general, make sure your child knows not to share private information online – such as their date of birth, address and names of family members.
Protecting a child from identity thieves can be simple, and is really all about consistent monitoring and being cognizant of the signs of theft. For more information on how to protect your child as well as how to check if they have a credit report (a key sign of identity theft), visit the Experian Education Blog. You can also take our special child identity theft quiz to test your knowledge on the topic.