Seven Steps to Protecting Your Child From Identity Theft
March 23, 2021 by Eileen Loustau
It’s heartbreaking to think of a young person trying to start out in life with a tarnished credit history. However, it's a reality that many parents face after finding out someone else has been using their child’s identity.
Here are some kid-specific identity theft prevention measures you can take now to protect you and your child from this frustration:
Get a credit report
You might think your child is too young to have a credit report. That should be true– a child doesn’t have any information yet to compile a credit file. But identity thieves have been targeting even newborns recently, figuring the younger the child, the longer before anyone finds out.
If your child does have a report, examine it to find out what information is being reported and why. It could be a sign of identity theft. Detecting this early will allow you to stop it before it gets worse, and give you more time to correct it.
Use the website www.annualcreditreport.com to access the reports for your child. Since everyone who has a report gets one free copy each year from each of the three bureaus, stagger your requests for your child’s reports, attempting to access a different report every four months.
Check Their Social Security Earnings Record
This is another source of information that may seem silly to try to access for your child. A Social Security earnings record is only generated for someone that actually has earnings. But, if someone is using the child’s identity to work illegally, then earnings may show up here.
Figuring it out isn’t difficult. The Social Security Administration lets you check the status of you and your children’s Social Security reports online.
Keep Important Papers Locked Up
It would be better to prevent identity theft before it happens. A simple step you can take that goes a long way toward that goal is to protect personal information.
Items like a birth certificate, Social Security card, or passport should be kept in a secure location like a safe or a hidden lock box. Don’t carry them with you unless absolutely necessary.
Monitor the Mail
If your child gets business mail that isn’t age appropriate — like credit card offers or collections notices — contact the sender and ask them to provide you with more information about why they are sending these items to your child. Do not provide any of your child’s personal information to the sender.
Be Careful With Sensitive Information
If someone — even a doctor or school administrator — is asking for your child’s Social Security number, birth certificate, or other potentially dangerous information, ask them why they need it, how it will be used, what security measures are being taken, and if there are alternatives to providing this information.
Accidents happen, so the less you share this information the better.
Talk About Safe Internet Habits
Young people spend a tremendous amount of time online these days, so have a discussion with them about the difference between secure and unsecure sites, the need for strong passwords, computer security settings, and other issues related to Internet safety.
Use parental controls or monitoring programs to keep them off of the most dangerous sites.
Be Especially Careful With Social Media Sites
Identity thieves have been known to monitor social media accounts to build information profiles for children. Make sure your child avoids giving out an address, birth date, or any information that could be used to guess a password and gather more personal data.
Taking these steps can’t guarantee that your child's identity won’t be stolen, but being careful and detecting any issues early can save you and your child a lot of stress.