From online shopping fraud to account takeover scams, identity theft has become an all too familiar menace that has created plenty of upheaval in the lives of millions of ordinary citizens. And now there’s a new kind of threat — children identity theft. The truth is, it’s been around for several years, but it’s only now that it’s gaining due attention.
So, what is child identity theft, and what should you do to protect your kids? In this article, we’ll explain all you should know about this growing threat to children’s safety and how you can help prevent it.
Child Identity Theft Explained
Criminals have been stealing identities and instilling fear in both individuals and organizations for years now. But today, children have become a lucrative target for their deceptive activities. More specifically, the personally identifiable data of minors are increasingly drawing the attention of various malicious actors. This can place your child at significant risk.
And to make matters worse, child identity theft is incredibly difficult to detect. In fact, it could take years to identify any red flags. When the warning signs are not so apparent, mitigating damage becomes harder. So, a criminal could make use of your child’s stolen data for years, committing financial fraud and other criminal activities with little fear of ever getting caught.
How Much of a Threat Can it Pose to Your Child?
The threats posed by any type of identity theft have no boundaries. Some have short-term outcomes, but others could extend far into the future. And some signs are apparent, while others, not so much. Child identity theft is no different.
There’s much a criminal could do with your child’s personal information. They could open accounts, take out loans, apply for a credit card, or steal money from their bank accounts. They could even sell personal data on the dark web, causing far greater damage. If they use your child’s identifiable information for criminal identity theft, your child could end up with criminal records under their name. Taking out credit lines and defaulting on them could leave kids with a less than desirable credit report.
And all this damage could be hard to reverse by the time you find out and may lead to detrimental repercussions for your child.
Safeguarding Your Child’s Identity
Finding a bad credit score or a credit report full of accounts could be a frightening experience for someone just stepping into adulthood. And this is the type of long-term outcome of breached identity that your child could inherit one day. So, protecting children from identity theft should be a priority for any parent.
Here’s what you need to know.
Preventing the Threat of Child Identity Theft
- Protect all forms of data, both in digital and hardcopy formats.
- Be vigilant of anyone requesting your child’s personal information. You have the right to say no.
- Sometimes, institutions such as schools and hospitals will have valid reasons to request data. In such instances, inquire about their data protection and data sharing policies.
- Opt for joint bank accounts. It can help you maintain better control.
- Request a credit freeze on your child’s behalf. It will activate all 3 major credit bureaus to open a credit report under your child’s name and initiate a freeze to limit access. Your child can lift it once they reach 16 years of age. They can also continue to keep it for extra security until they are ready to take out a loan or credit facility.
- Avoid sharing. Think twice before sharing your child’s photos and videos online.
- Monitor your child’s online activities until they can safely and confidently practice security precautions. Maintain access to their accounts by sharing account credentials. It will help you get a better idea of their activities, whom they interact with, and what type of information they share.
- Encourage your child to ask questions about data safety. Help them understand the risks involved and the dangers of unsafe information sharing practices.
- Run a background check using your child’s name every few months. It will help identify personal information that’s readily available for criminals to access. Take proactive steps to remove unwanted data trails from cyberspace.
- Keep all devices safe and secure. These include computers, phones, tabs, and other smart devices used by both you and your child.
Identifying Early Warning Signs
- Keep track of bank statements of accounts opened under your child’s name. They can alert you to any fraudulent transactions.
- Review your child’s credit report once a month to identify unauthorized activities. If you still haven’t requested a credit freeze, check for any credit reports created under your child’s name. Ideally, there should be none.
- Watch out for unusual mail. For example, it could be a follow-up communication from a lender about a recent loan application or a letter from the IRS about a tax claim. All these are telltale signs that your child’s social security number and other identifiable data have been compromised.
Minimizing the Impact of Child Identity Theft
- If you suspect an identity breach, contact the Federal Trade Commission. Submit a complaint on gov. Ensure you take a copy of the report generated.
- Get law enforcement involved.
- Inform the credit bureaus, banks, lenders, or any other organization relevant to the incident.
- Change passwords and other access controls.
- Sometimes, a single breach could lead to multiple negative consequences over an extended period of time. Therefore, continue to monitor the impact, so you can take immediate action as soon as a threat arises.
Remember, your children are relying on you to protect and guide them until they are old enough to ensure their own safety. So, use these preventative and damage-mitigating steps to protect your child’s identifiable data and minimize the risks of child identity theft.