As a parent, your priority is to protect your child at all times. Although protecting them in a physical manner is one thing, being able to protect them in the virtual world is a different animal. Experian estimates that over 25% of children will be victims of identity theft or fraud before turning 18 years old. It’s a real possibility that while you’re buckling your child’s seat belt or telling them not to run with scissors, their credit history is being tainted before they’ve even opened their first bank account.
But how does this happen? Where can your child’s personal information be obtained? The primary method appears to be data breaches – for which 2017 was a record year, and it proved to be a recurring issue in 2018 as well. Anywhere your child’s Social Security Number is stored is a potential risk, including hospitals, sports leagues, schools, and doctor’s offices.
Once an identity thief has stolen a social security number, the internet helps them locate more information. Family names, DOB, location, and more can be found simply by using Google, Facebook, and other popular sites. Through the dark web, thieves can sell your information, or worse. Credit cards, loans, mortgages, rent, and more can be set up using your child’s information – and with a spotless credit history, it would take a while for the effects to be noticeable. By that time, it may take years to restore your child’s credit to the point of being able to get a loan or credit card.
There are, however, ways to prevent your child’s information from being stolen in the first place. Here are a few precautions to take to ensure your child’s financial identity.
- Only provide essential information. The more information that’s available, the easier it is to steal that identity. Don’t provide your child’s SSN, DOB, or even middle name unless it is essential.
- Be cautious with documents. Don’t carry around your child’s Social Security card or any document it may be on. Keep documents with sensitive information in a safe deposit box or locked up at home. Shred any documents with sensitive information when you throw it away.
- Exercise caution with social media. Don’t share personal information about your child when posting on sites like Facebook or Instagram. When your child is old enough to have their own account, discuss online safety with them and monitor their profiles.
- Consider creating a credit file for your child (with the ability to freeze it). The three credit bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian may establish your child’s file upon request. This prevents thieves from opening a file in your child’s name and gives you control of the PIN needed to freeze/unfreeze an account.
Even if you take precautionary measures, your child is still at risk. If you’re wondering if your child has had their identity stolen, there are red flags that point to that possibility:
- There is an existing credit report. The only way your child should have an existing credit report is if you created it. Checking for an existing report when your child is around 15 or 16 years old gives you time to solve an issue before they become an adult.
- Is your child receiving credit card offers? If so, an identity thief may have messed up and routed a new credit card to your child instead of themselves.
- Is your child receiving bills or collection notices? This is a BIG red flag if your child isn’t supposed to have a credit file.
- Difficulty obtaining government benefits for your child may be a sign a criminal has already applied for them in your child’s name.
My Safe Identity aims to prevent you or your child from being victim of identity theft, and work tirelessly to recover your identity if it’s breached. If you’re concerned about the possibility of identity theft, My Safe Identity memberships cover your entire family for one low price of $9.99/month. Visit https://mysafeidentity.com/program/ to learn more about our memberships!