You might think that without jobs, credit scores, or large sums of money in the bank, children are immune to the growing issue of identity theft. In fact, just the opposite is true. Children are actually targeted for identity theft 35 times more often than adults.
Children's spotless Social Security numbers and pristine credit appeal to cybercriminals and thieves, who use them to rack up credit card debt, mortgages, or auto loans that can go undetected for years. Later,when they apply for their first job, credit card, or school loan as a young adult, a victim is faced with the painful discovery that their identity has been ruined.
Below are some practical recommendations, based on the Center for Identity's ongoing research, to help protect your child from the most common threats in identity theft. Be sure to subscribe to our IDWise e-newsletter to stay on top of the latest information.
Keep Your Kids Safe
Identity thieves can use a child's personally identifying information (PII) to apply for government benefits, file a fraudulent tax return, or open bank and credit card accounts.
Keep your child's birth certificate, Social Security card, passport, and other important identifying information at home, preferably locked in a safe.
It’s Okay Not To Share
Schools, Little League teams, pediatricians, and other organizations often request a child's Social Security number—but the more often you give away that information, the more vulnerable your child is to hackers or a data breach.
Avoid using your child's Social Security number when possible; even the last four digits are valuable. If asked to provide it, politely ask if you can give another identifier.
Play With Privacy
As more and more children go online to play interactive games, surf websites, and participate in message boards and social media, the more opportunities they have to be victims of social engineering, phishing, and other online scams and predators.
Teach your children the importance of safe sharing online. Personal information should never be revealed via email, social networks, or websites, and links and attachments should not be clicked at random. The Center's original game, "Beat the Thief," is a fun way for 8- to 10-year-olds to learn the basics of safe online communication.
Children aren’t the only ones who may be sharing too much on social media. Facebook or e-mail may be the best way to share news of your child’s birth or photos of them as they grow, but cyberthieves can use details like your child's full legal name, plus the date and place of their birth, to dig up more secure info. And it’s not just sensitive information that could be vulnerable—the Center for Identity’s Identity Ecosystem project has found that even seemingly innocuous information can add up to a big vulnerability.
Set your privacy settings so that only a select few trusted friends and family members can see what you post—or better yet, keep detailed information off of social media altogether.
Funded by a partnership with the Texas Legislature, and powered by the Center for Identity, IDWise is a resource center for the public on identity theft, fraud, and privacy.