Watch Out for Thieves Stealing your Children’s Identity
There is a lot of focus around identity theft and all the methods crafty thieves use to steal your information, run up credit card bills, drain your bank account, and even steal your tax refund. The digital age has helped give rise to another avenue for identity thieves; stealing the identities of minors. Children’s identity theft is growing at an alarming rate, and many parents do not realize that their kids may be at risk.
Why Would Thieves want to Steal my Child’s Identity?
Many adults wonder what a thief would want with the identity of a child. After all, most kids have no income, no fat bank account to drain, and no income tax refund to steal. The reality is that thieves covet the Social Security numbers of children more than those of adults. The main reason is that kids tend to have a clean credit history, making it easy to open credit card accounts, apply for loans, and even apply for government benefits.
The other major reason is that it may be several years (depending on the child’s age) before the theft is discovered when the child begins working and/or starts using their credit. By this time, the thieves can open multiple credit accounts and steal possibly tens of thousands of dollars or more, not to mention that they can also collect free government benefits for several years.
How Do Thieves Steal a Child’s Identity?
Getting a hold of a minor’s Social Security number is surprisingly easy these days. Parents tend to give out their child’s SSN to numerous entities that may ask for it but do not necessarily need it. These may include their school, doctor’s office, and all types of extracurricular organizations.
These entities are major hack targets, and thieves are often able to obtain multiple SSNs of children through data breaches. It does not help that many kids tend to volunteer much of their personal information to the public on social media platforms. This type of information often helps thieves verify their identity and match it with a stolen SSN.
There is another way a thief can obtain a child’s SSN that is very difficult to prevent. It is through a method known as “synthetic identity theft”, where thieves use a combination of real and fictitious information to build an identity around. The Social Security Administration uses randomized SSNs, and thieves often use a random number that has not been assigned yet. This means that once it is assigned to a newborn, they may already have a credit history under a different name.
It is Up to Parents to Keep the Identities of their Children Safe
Identity theft is so widespread, no one can prevent it completely in all cases. That said, parents should do everything they can to make sure the identities of their kids are not stolen. Here are some steps you can take to protect your children from identity theft:
- Be Extremely Careful about Giving Out their SSN: In general, the only entity who should have your child’s SSN is the IRS. No one else really needs to have it until they turn 16, get a job, and open their own bank account.
- Educate Them about Exposing Private Information: Sit down and talk with your kids about the importance of not exposing too much about themselves, especially on publicly viewed social media platforms. Also, be sure to monitor their internet use to make sure they are following your advice.
- Check your Child’s Credit File: When you inquire with the credit bureaus, you want to verify that there is no credit report on file. If your child does have a credit report and they have never applied for credit, report this to the police immediately, then file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
Obtain Identity Theft Protection
Identity theft can happen to anyone at any age. And since no one can monitor all their credit activity all the time, it makes sense to be proactive and implement a protection plan. There are several plans and options available. We recommend LegalShield, but there are plenty of others out there as well. And for employers, identity theft protection is a great benefit you can provide inexpensively for your employees and their families.