Children are the perfect targets for identity theft, as it may go undiscovered for years. Most often this crime is committed by a friend or family member, but more and more often it is a result of online information.
Read more to discover how your child’s identity may be stolen and what you can do to prevent it.
The other day my daughter received two credit card offers in the mail. This happens to many of us quite often. But not when we are only 12 years old! How did this company get her name and more importantly her address? What could I have done to provide information that would cause her to receive a credit card invitation in the mail?
More and more families are utilizing the web to stay in touch with friends and family long distance; sites such as MySpace, Photobucket, Facebook as well as everyday web pages are turning into family showcases. But are our families, and most importantly our children safe online? We often hear of the incidences of children being approached by a sexual predator online, but what about credit predators? Is there a chance that this information can be harmful?
The answer is a resounding Yes! According to the Federal Trade Commission over half a million children were victims of identity theft in 2005. In some cases, a child’s Social Security Number has been stolen keeping a parent for using their dependents and exemptions for their children as someone else as already filed using their child’s information. Sadly enough, often times a child’s identity is stolen by another family member, parent or close family friend; someone who may have access to the child’s information such as date of birth and Social Security Number.
Children are the perfect target for identity theft. They have a spotless credit record and because they are not using their credit it may go undetected for several years. They grow up and suddenly there discover their credit records are blemished in many cases far beyond repair.
What can you do to protect your child from identity theft? The National Cyber Security Alliance advises that people think of social networking sites as “billboards in cyberspace.” Would you post on a billboard your child’s personal information, such a social security number? To protect your child from identity theft you can take the following steps:
– Keep your profile and information as well as photographs, blogs and other personal, family information private. If you wish to share it only allow those friends and family members you trust to access the site.
– Do not provide your child’s school with the social security number. Another number can be “generated” for use by the school district, and schools can not deny an education based on your refusal.
– Keep your child’s personal information under lock and key. If someone asks for the Social Security number, be sure to check the reasons for doing so. Ask for copies of the bank account statement or other verifying documents if they claim that they are setting up a savings account or other investment opportunity for your child.
– If someone wants to invest in your child’s future, establish the account yourself and note that deposits can be made by specific individuals on the account. This keeps your child’s social security number private.
– Don’t carry your child’s SSN in your wallet. If you are asked for the information indicate that you will call back with the information that you don’t carry it with you. Wait until your children are older to provide them with their official SSN card; just last week even my 20 yr old asked me where his was and he had it since his majority.
– Shred, shred, shred. Shred any documents that you can. Shred credit card offers. Shred medical forms once they are no longer needed. An investment of a $20.00 shredder can save your child money and trouble in the future.
– Make sure to set your computer for parental controls, including spyware and anti virus software. Unfortunately many parents think to protect their own information, but are not so thorough with their child’s.
– Monitor your child’s internet usage. If they have email, check incoming and outgoing messages. If they have a MySpace or other social networking site make sure you have their password and monitor the “friends” and other contributions and messages to their sites.
– Be wary of any website or telephone call that asks for your child’s social security number. Make sure that it is valid, relevant and necessary before providing it.
Diligence and caution are essential in protecting your children from identity theft. Remember the majority of instances of identity theft to children are committed by friends or family members, however more and more instances occur as a result of information posted on the internet; whether by yourself or your child. Your caution now will never been seen as “rude,” but simply as a concerned parent who is being very aware of your child’s surroundings. Anyone who is “upset” by your failure to provide your child’s information and you may want to ask yourself, “Why?” they would feel that way.