How to Protect My Children From Identity Theft?
It seems identity theft is no longer just our problem. A staggering number of cases involving children have been reported in recent years. According to statistics, over 1 million children were involved in cases of identity theft, fraud, or bullying in 2017 alone. What's even more frightening is that over 60% of the children involved were under 7, and over 60% were the victims of someone they personally know.
How to spot child identity theft
As adults we think we're more at risk than our kids, but is that true? Children and teenagers are among the most ardent users of social media and by far the most enthusiastic about sharing their personal lives on the Internet. According to statistics, kids were twice as likely to be targeted as adults. But why? Adults are the more lucrative targets, right? They have the juicy bank accounts the cybercriminals want so why target kids? It's because kids are a tabula rasa, a blank slate, which the identity thieves can use to open new lines of credit.
Synthetic identity theft is another issue for children and teenagers. That's when cybercriminals use the 2011 change to Social Security numbers making them randomized to create fake profiles. There are numerous cases where kids were issued social security numbers, which already had a credit history and debt.
Now, you might think that should be pretty easy to sort out, right? After all, who would believe an 8-year-old would have a credit history. Well, it's not that simple. The problem is kids have to go through the same process as adults during the investigation. Another issue is that children are more likely to be the victim of someone they know than adults. Crooks close to the victim could use your child's personal information (like home address, phone number, etc) to verify the fake ID they've created. Many victims are also unwilling to press charges against friends or family members making the process all the more difficult.
How do I protect my children from identity theft?
- Keep your children personal information away from others.
- Block your children from opening credit lines.
- Keep your documents in a secure location.
- Stay alert.
Make sure only you and your immediate family know intimate details about your kids. Don't share your children's phone numbers with just anyone, and be 100% sure institutions and organizations, which ask for your children's social security numbers are legit and have that authority.
Take a more proactive stance in protecting your children's credit history. Depending on the country and state you live you live in you may be able to freeze all of your children's credit lines, thus preventing any cybercriminals from opening new lines in their name. Speak to a lawyer for more details on how to do this where you live.
It's not just your digital data that can be hacked. Make sure your important documents like birth certificates, tax returns, and other important documents are placed in a hidden and safe place. Do not show them to anyone you don't fully trust.
There are a number of red flags you should be on the lookout for. After all, credit lines aren't the only (mis)use of stolen security numbers. Keep an eye out for oddities in your tax returns and other documents. Act if you see or hear anything strange, like your children getting jury summons or being involved with law enforcement in any way.
Above all else, talk to your children and explain to them why they should be careful when disclosing any personal or private information, even with family members or friends. Make them understand that they should never share their social security numbers with anyone or any organization or institutions before talking to you first. Tell them to inform you if anyone suspicious asks them questions about their social security numbers, their phones numbers, address, etc.