Children are just as vulnerable to identity theft as adults but protecting them from this crime is up to their parents or guardians. Here are some tips to help avoid identity theft for your children.
- Don’t carry your child’s Social Security card with you. This may seem silly to even mention but if you have your kid’s cards in your purse or wallet you’re putting them at risk. If you lose your purse or wallet stolen, your child’s Social Security number could fall into the hands of a criminal. If your purse or wallet is stolen, the risk of identity theft is even higher. Keep Social Security cards and other important documents in your home under lock and key.
- Don’t give anyone your child’s social security number. Think about how often you’re asked for your child’s Social Security number. If someone asks you for a copy of your child’s birth certificate or social security number, ask why it’s necessary. There will be times when this is needed – during school registration for example – but always question whether it is absolutely necessary. Also, don’t hesitate to ask the party requesting the information exactly how it will be stored and who, if anybody, besides them will have access to the information. When asked for your child’s Social Security number, find out if some other form of identification will suffice. Anyone can steal a child’s identity if they have enough information. It could be an elementary school secretary or your child’s high school football coach. Most people are honest but it’s smart to play it safe by keeping important information to yourself unless absolutely necessary.
- Teach your children to use the internet safely. Make sure your kids know what information is safe to give out and what isn’t. Children that don’t understand this probably shouldn’t be allowed on the internet at all. Even game sites request information and your children will quickly fall into the habit of filling out forms to get instant access to their favorite websites. We suggest you have your children come to you for approval before any personal information is sent over the internet even if it’s just their email address.
- Be alert to red flags. If your children begin receiving credit card applications, catalogs and especially billing statements you need to find out why. Your child’s identity may not have been stolen but you should look into anything that appears unusual.
- Get free annual credit reports for your child. Everyone, including children, is entitled to one free credit report a year from the major credit reporting agencies. Make sure you take advantage of this every year and check it for suspicious activity. If your child doesn’t have a credit report to check then it’s a safe bet no one has stolen their identity because there’s been no credit activity.
- Freeze your child’s credit. Look into freezing your child’s credit until their old enough to begin using it. If your child’s identity has been stolen you need to report it immediately and take action to defend them against the theft of their identity. The process to restore their credit will be long and difficult but can’t be put off or ignored.
- Use a credit reporting company’s services. Credit reporting companies now have staff trained in juvenile identity theft. If you suspect your child’s identity has been stolen, contact them and tell them why you suspect fraud.