Time after time, the altruistic statistic on children identity theft gets mentioned. You might have heard already, or maybe not; the Carnegie Mellon University claims an estimated 10.2% of kid’s become identity theft victims. While you can debate that number, there is no denying that identity theft is an alarming issue and children can also be affected.
In fact, identity thieves love to target children. They do not have any real credit report, yet, so no bad credit history is there to prevent opening new credit lines. They are also young enough that the crime might not get noticed for many years to come. In fact, $750,000 in losses were incurred by a 16-year old victim and even a 5-month old was once victimized.
How Do Identity Thieves Rob Children?
Just like with stealing an adult’s identity, a certain set of information must first be gathered. This might include the child’s full name, current address, social security number, and more. Details on the child’s parents could also impact the thief’s flexibility. If the attacker is a friend or relative, or a mail thief, it becomes easy to make big fraud and theft attempts.
The 10.2% estimate is the most popular statistic from the study done back in 2011. But, this study also found a few other important points. To be more specific, it indicated a rough estimate on how often each of the different ‘cash out’ methods were used.
Here’s what the study shows:
- 70% of children who are victimized end up with fraudulent credit accounts or loans in their name.
- 18% of children end up with a utility bill in their name.
- 5% of children victims are targeted through mortgages, foreclosures, and other types of real estate fraud.
- 4% of children are defrauded for the purpose of creating fake driver’s licenses, whether for employment, financial fraud, or otherwise.
- 2% of children find themselves being the unsuspecting victim of vehicle registration fraud by organized crime circles and devoted criminals.
Now, you really want to take steps towards making your child’s identity safer. This is not a subject that should be ignored, and no one ever has a bulletproof protection method. But, there are a number of things you can do to lower the risk of your child becoming an identity theft victim.
Here’s a look at 10 tips that will help ensure your child’s identity stays safe.
1) Make your child’s social security number private.
Your child’s social security number is all an attacker really needs to make your little one a victim of identity fraud. This is because it’s not yet common for businesses to have access to the official date of birth and name of the social security number holder. As the same number can tie to multiple reports, it becomes a game of proving who’s who once multiple people try to claim the same number.
So, make sure your child’s number is never easy to find. Shred up any paperwork that comes in the mail with it, or at least remove that section. This information should always be kept confidential and your child also needs to understand that. Further, you should always limit the people who are entitled to these details. For example, showing a customer service representative at a phone service provider your kid’s number to get a phone is unnecessary.
2) Pay for Identity Theft Protection Services
The idea of paying for identity theft protection is no big deal when it keeps the parents safe. But, it might seem like an unnecessary investment when discussing the safety of your child’s identity. Yet, the statistics behind identity crimes against minors are alarming and something needs to be done.
Two great services to consider include LifeLock Junior and Identity Guard kID Sure. These are both add-on services that get included with their parent’s plan for a small extra cost. The Junior plan is a great option for those on a budget, as it runs just $5.99 a month instead of $9.99 a month. Either way, any protection is better than none and these are the top two identity theft protection companies to date.
3) Note All Parties Who Get Sensitive Information
Make sure to keep a list of the people and businesses that get to hear or read the social security number of your child. The same applies for other sensitive information that could help a criminal commit identity fraud or theft.
This makes it easy to know where things went wrong if your child does become a victim. If you know who to blame, then you do not have to worry about covering the losses on your own. This is hugely beneficial, but relying on the *$1 million service guarantee through the LifeLock Junior plan is also a great idea.
*Disclaimer: “Service Guarantee benefits for State of New York members are provided under a Master Insurance Policy issued by State National Insurance Company. Benefits for all other members are provided under a Master Insurance Policy underwritten by United Specialty Insurance Company. Under the Service Guarantee LifeLock will spend up to $1 million to hire experts to help your recovery. Please see the policy for terms, conditions and exclusions at LifeLock.com/legal.”
4) Inquire on How Information Gets Handled
There are obvious cases where you do not need to give out your child’s social security number or other sensitive data. For example, this is not needed when you are putting a cell phone in your own name for your child. Yet, you cannot prevent ever needing to show either the birth certificate or social security number of your child.
But, you should always ask about how this information will get handled. You need to find out whether the data gets stored in a safe way, and how the recipient will make sure it stays safe. As you can find yourself giving out documents like your child’s birth certificate when joining a sports club, this is a big thing to keep in mind.
5) Check Your Child’s Earnings Report
Before subscribing for paid child identity theft protection, request an earnings report for your child’s social security number. You can do this through this form or by calling 1-800-772-1213 and making the request. Also, if you have yet to do so, it’s a good idea to check and see if there is already a credit report open in your child’s name.
But, do not expect the earnings factor to play into the credit report. The attacker could have swapped the birthdate and name tying to the social security number. If this is the case, there will not be any credit report in your child’s name. Yet, the earnings record for the social security number could still show proof of identity fraud against your child.
6) Keep Confidential Data Off the Computer and Web
Is your child at the age where technology is starting to take over? If so, you probably have a good idea on how hard it can be to monitor their online usage. Yet, it is easy for an identity thief to find sensitive information through a minor’s social media account. And, many are gullible enough to make the mistake through other techniques on the Web.
Heck, even images of your children could put them at risk. With the right geo-coding details, an attacker could track your child’s residence. And, seeing as it just takes the right virus, you are no safer when you just store sensitive information and images offline. To put it simple, doing less to risk your child’s identity is the best approach of all.
7) Keep Your Child’s Documents Locked Away
It’s unfortunate but true, most identity thieves are the family, friends, or neighbors of their victims. As you never know who to trust, and even a cleaner or a poolboy could catch a glance at the right time, it’s best to keep all this information under wraps. Find a good hiding spot in your room or buy a safe and make sure no one else has access.
Believe it or not, many identity thieves with relation to their victims never meant to hurt them. In fact, even parents have been to blame for stealing their own children’s identities. Some cases exist where the parents owed too much to utility companies to keep in service. As they do not want to leave their family without heat, water, and etc., it only makes sense to run these services under another name. Yet, the thieves could slip up on payments and put the victims into a messy situation.
8) Watch for Medical Bills
You need to keep an eye on your mail for any suspicious bills that could show up. But, don’t hold onto too much hope that the attacker avoided changing the mailing address. Instead, go the extra mile by keeping an eye on your child’s medical history for any inaccuracies. Whether it’s a prescription or a pricey operation, anything out of the ordinary could be a strong indicator that your child’s identity was stolen.
Most of the time, this does not get noticed until the hospital starts calling or when they send bill collectors after you. If that latter occurs, you might still be skeptical as it could just be a fraudulent debt collection company starting a trick of their own. But, you can always contact MIB nIc, OptumInsight Inc, and other reporting bureaus that specifically cover health and life expenses to request a report.
9) Take Action Right Away
The first time a red flag shows up, act right away. Overprotecting your child will go a lot further than under protecting them. And to do this, you should follow these steps:
- File an FTC complaint, which creates an ‘Identity Theft Affidavit’.
- Include any evidence, such as debt bills or IRS letters.
- Use the affidavit to file a local police report.
- Let all creditors and report bureaus know the activity is fraudulent.
- Request all fraudulent actions to be removed from your credit report.
- Pressure each of the three bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) to investigate further.
- Pay to have a credit freeze on your child’s report to prevent any further damage.
The report bureaus will remove the fraudulent activity once they have sufficient evidence to conclude that your child was a victim of identity theft. That’s where the affidavit comes n handy, as it s almost always enough to indicate an identity crime occurred.
10) Talk to Them
By the time your child is 10 years of age, you should sit down and have a serious talk with them about the truths of identity theft. This includes the fact that it’s more easy than ever now to become a victim, and even as a minor they are at risk.
Make sure you child stays safeguarded when it comes to giving out personal identifying information, especially when it comes to their social security number. Further, explain how important it is to avoid opening accounts for others when no long-term trust has been established.