Guest post by Amanda Moore
Your little one may not know what Social Security numbers and data protection are, but that, unfortunately, doesn’t reduce their risks of being impersonated by an identity thief. Yes, it’s sad but true: children and even tiny babies are just as vulnerable to identity theft as adults— but until it’s something they can understand, they’ll have no personal control over it. Instead, it’s up to you, their family or guardian, to ensure that the proper precautions are taken against child identity theft.
Why Do Children Get Targeted at All?
If you think it feels especially cruel for identity thieves to target the under-18 set, you’re correct. Even worse, these scammers specifically go after kids because it’s easier for them to steal for longer since they’re taking an SSN with fewer eyes on it. As a result, when a child’s identity is stolen, it often doesn’t get detected for years. In fact, some people don’t find out they were a victim of child identity theft until early adulthood when they are unable to open a bank account or get turned down from a job or university due to someone else’s activity in their name.
In 2018, it was reported that over a million of that year’s identity theft cases were perpetrated against children— and two-thirds of those kids were under eight years old. A large percentage of these victims had their identities stolen by family members and other adults in their actual lives. It’s important for parents to be cautious about their children’s’ personal information, even with family members, friends, and acquaintances.
Keeping Their Information Safe
Your most important step in protecting your child’s identifying personal information? Keeping any personal information secure and away from prying eyes.
- Keep any documents pertaining to your children in a secure, locked file or safe. It’s is a digital file, it’s wise to password protect or encrypt it.
- If you are getting rid of any files containing your children’s personal details, give them a shred before putting them in the trash.
- If an institution or person needs your children’s information (like a social security number,) find out exactly why and what they need it for. If possible, ask to just use the last 4-digits.
- Be on the lookout for circumstances that might put your child’s identity at risk, like a security breach at your family doctor or dentist, a break-in, or a lost item (like your wallet.)
Keep on the Lookout for Red Flags
If someone has or is trying to steal your child’s identity, there will likely be some warning signs. Be on the lookout for the following:
- Suspicious mail in your child’s name, like tax information, collections notices, or bills.
- IRS information or calls to or in reference to your children.
- Any discrepancies in government benefits, like yours being turned down because somebody else is receiving them.
Know the Common Scams
The most common way for a scammer to impersonate your child is by creating a “synthetic identity.” To create this fraudulent identity, scammers combine a child’s Social Security number with a random birthday. The system then registers that identity, with its clean record, as a new person.
Watch your Child’s Credit
if you’re worried about the security of your child’s data, it’s best to run a credit check or monitor their score. If anybody has been using your kid’s information for their own benefit, it will show up in their credit score, and you’ll be able to deal with it before the situation worsens.
There are three credit bureaus nationwide that you can contact in order to do this. Though you should always keep your children’s information under wraps, these credit bureaus actually do require you to hand over some sensitive data. You’ll need to provide the birth or adoption certificate of your child, their Social Security number and card, as well as identifying information and proof of address for yourself.