How to Protect Kids and Teens from Identity Theft
As a parent there are so many things you need to worry about to keep your kids safe, now there is another. Did you know that identity theft of kids and teens is on the rise? Just in 2016 alone, the FTC received 15,000 complaints of identity theft of a minor and in 2017 more than 1 million kids have their identities stolen.
Roughly 4% of all the cases reported in a year affect kids and teens. Unfortunately it quite easy for someone to steal a kid’s identity. Generally, it begins when a criminal takes your child’s social security number.
Why Do Thieves Use Children’s Identities
The top reason thieves target children with identity theft is that they have perfect credit. Adults can legally apply for credit, and usually do so. In turn, an adult can have either a great credit score, or a less-than-perfect credit score. Rather than take the gamble on whether or not a person has a good credit score, thieves target children. Kids don’t have mortgages or default loans or any credit card debt. It’s like grabbing a clean slate and using it all up before anyone finds out. Children are also easy targets because it may be years before the fraud is detected and they start to use their own identity.
How Thieves Use Children’s Identities
Criminals use kids’ identities for loans, renting property, applying for government benefits, and opening bank and credit card accounts. The most common method is when the thief steals your child’s social security number and then uses it with a different birth date. This process is known as creating a “synthetic identity.” Most the victim knows the identity thief. 22% of the time the identity theft is perpetrated by a parent, stepparent, sibling or other relatives.
The worst part is that criminals can get away with it for years as it usually goes unnoticed until the child is an adult and applies for credit. Identity theft hurts college kids chances of getting into school, applying for internships and obtaining their own real credit. Once their identity has been used and sullied, it is harder to clean up.
Protection and Prevention Tips
Like with many things, it is easier to prevent the problem than to fix it after it has happened. This begins with properly educating kids on the possible dangers online.
Thankfully the government is taking notice of this issue and has started penning laws protecting underage people from identity theft. In the meantime, as a parent, there is a lot you can do to protect your child and prevent identity theft.
Tip 1 – Protect Your Child’s Social Security Number
Never give out your child’s social security number to anyone who doesn’t need it. Although places like schools, extracurricular activities, and even medical offices may ask for it, they don’t need it. They are not offering your child credit and limiting access to your child’s SSN is the best defense against this type of crime.
Tip 2 – Review the Safety of Your Child’s School Information
Pay attention to privacy policies and find out how your child’s school safeguards the personal information they store on students. Consult with their security team and even the IT department to ensure your kid’s data is safe.
Tip 3 – Secure Your Kid’s and Teen’s Mobile Devices
Personal information can be stolen easily from mobile devices that are not adequately secured. Teach your kids how to create complex, safe passwords and always use them. Don’t forget to teach your kids about these types of scams, along with phishing emails and never to click on links they receive.
Tip 4 – Be Careful and Monitor Social Media
Teach your child how to use the Internet and be safe online. Be careful what you and your kids post on social media. Monitor their posts and tweets to make sure they are not oversharing or communicating with a stranger who could be an identity thief trying to steal their information.
Tip 5 – Get a Copy of Your Child’s Credit Report
You can quickly get a copy of your child’s credit report at any time to see if there is any activity. Bank loans, credit cards and other things that show up will indicate someone is using their social security number. You will need to take swift action to repair the damage.
How to Fix It, if it Happens To You
If you find out your child’s identity has been stolen take the steps below as quickly as possible to resolve it before they need to use their credit.
- Contact all the major credit reporting agencies and ask them to remove all the credit information, inquiries, accounts and everything associated with that social security number.
- Next, contact every business that is associated with those accounts like banks, credit cards and other places the credit was used.
- Ask each creditor to place a “fraud alert” on the account.
- Contact the FTC and file a fraud report. You can also call them at 877-438-4338.
- If any of the accounts were used for medical expenses or involve taxes, you would also need to contact the police.