It’s easy to forget that children are also often victims of identity theft. You may ask: what is there to gain from using a child’s identity? Yet more than one million children were victims of identity fraud in 2017, resulting in billions of dollars’ worth of loses, and costing families $540 million out-of-pocket.
On the surface of it, it doesn’t seem like there’s much to gain from a child’s identity, but for identity thieves it’s like a blank canvas to work from. If a fraudster manages to get hold of your child’s identity, then you may be surprised just how much they can do. Synthetic identity theft means your child’s Social Security number could end up attached to a completely fake identity, allowing the fraudster to do anything they want. Creating new bank accounts, taking out huge loans, even pretending to be a victim of fraud under a fraudulent identity – the list goes on and on.
Child identity theft frequently happens when identity thieves get access to your child’s Social Security number. This can come from a data breach if, for example, the number is stored in a school or doctor’s database that isn’t sufficiently secured. However, it can be that this type of fraud comes from a more disturbing source. Often, the only person who would know all the details necessary to use your child’s identity is someone who is already close to them. Indeed, six out of ten child identity fraud victims knew the perpetrator personally. This means it’s incredibly important to keep any of your physical documents secure, even from those you may trust the most.
What really makes child identity theft such a common crime, is that it’s easy for criminals to get away with for a long time. That’s because you won’t even know it’s happening – sometimes it can even take years to discover. Often the tell-tale signs are from receiving suspicious mail. If your six-year old has been called up for jury duty, chances are they’re a victim of identity theft and are not yet ready to fulfil their civic obligation. Similarly, receiving pre-approved credit cards in your child’s name, and even notices from the DMV are indicative of identity theft.
It can be worse than that though. In extreme cases, child identity theft can mean children owing thousands of dollars and having their credit score ruined before they’ve even opened up their first bank account.
How to Prevent Child Identity Theft
The first thing you need to do to prevent identity theft of this kind is to be incredibly careful where and when you give out your child’s SSN. To stay safe, you should never give out the number unless it’s absolutely necessary.
It’s also recommended to freeze your child’s credit score as this will stop anyone from taking out new lines of credit in their name. While you’re doing that, it’s also worth doing it for yourself as well – this can be done by contacting credit bureaus directly, using identity theft protection, or a service like Credit Karma.
Of course, you can’t police everything your children do on the internet all the time. So, it’s important that you teach your kids not only about the dangers that exist online, but also about identity theft. Make sure they understand that they should give out as little personal information on the internet as possible, and how they can keep their online accounts secure.
On top of all that, it’s highly recommended that you invest in some specialist protection. Fortunately, there’s a big market of identity theft protection services out there. Some, like IdentityForce and Symantec’s LifeLock, specialize in protecting whole families, including children.
It’s important that your home computer is well protected too, as viruses can lead to your data being exposed to hackers, and that includes your personal information. Having good internet security then, is a big step towards staying safe from identity thieves.
Similarly, since data breaches are frequently a helpful tool for identity thieves, your online credentials need to be as strong as possible. Software like password managers are helpful tools that will often inform you if your previous passwords have appeared in a previous data breach as well as give you strong, randomized passwords all saved in an encrypted vault.
Best Identity Theft Protection of 2021