Here’s one for the know-it-alls: Kids are 35 percent more likely to become victims of identity theft than are adults. Betcha didn’t know that! This startling news comes from a 2015 Javelin Strategy & Release study.
Needless to say, the bulk of parents aren’t on top of this problem, unaware that thieves go after children’s SSNs like two-year-olds grabbing at candy. Thieves know that kids (and their parents) don’t monitor their credit reports. Thieves know that they can get away with their crime all throughout the victim’s childhood until they start applying for college, credit cards, etc., at age 18 or so. That’s a long time to get away with a crime.
Let’s talk about how to prevent child identity theft.
ID Theft Protection
- Sign on with an ID theft protection company; many such companies protect the entire family including kids.
- Get an ID theft protection service. This is not the same as antivirus software. For example, ID theft protection services will monitor your credit report. It will also alert you when an account is opened in your name.
- Put a freeze on your kids’ credit reports; 19 states allow this for the three main credit reporting agencies. Equifax allows a freeze no matter what state you live in.
- A frozen credit will prevent a crook from opening lines of credit in your child’s name.
Who needs your child’s Social Security number?
- Put your children’s sensitive documents (birth certificate, SSN card, etc.) in a lockable safe and/or keep it hidden.
- THINK, before you hand out your child’s SSN. Just because it’s requested doesn’t mean you must blindly give it up. Ask yourself: Why on earth do they need my child’s Social Security number? The gruff coach of your child’s new soccer team may be requesting the number. The child beauty pageant director may be asking for it. Don’t be intimidated.
- Come on, really. WHY would a sports team, karate tournament entry form or any other child-centered activity need this information?
- Minimize putting your child’s name and address “out there.” Even if you decide to get a magazine subscription for your tween, put your name on the subscription.
- Meet with your child’s principal to keep your child’s information from getting out. Schools often share personal information of students with third parties.
- It’s not cute that your five-year-old can rattle off her Social Security number. Kids don’t need to know this number. They need to know your phone number, how to dial 9-1-1 and their home address. But not their SSN. Geez, if they know their SSN, you just never know when they might leak it out to the wrong ears. When kids are in high school, they may need it, but still, be very cautious about when you decide it’s time to give them this information.
Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention