Protecting Your Children from Identity Theft
Six steps you can use to protect your child's identity.
Over the past two months, I have been asked for my child’s legal name, address, parents’ names, and proof of birthdate six times and twice for a Social Security Number. I have routinely provided the information albeit with significant reservations and a healthy dose of trepidation. In fact, I feel the kind of anxiety one would expect when bungee jumping. It is the kind of trepidation that makes your heart stop as you notice the lump forming in your stomach, beads of sweat accumulating on your palms, and thoughts racing through your brain knowing that this is not the safest plan. Attempting to be the rational thinker I think I am, I remind myself that the odds are in my favor. Aren’t they? I mean, anyone who has a child that plays on a sports team, attends a school, visits a doctor, or participates in an extracurricular activity provides this information.
HOW DANGEROUS CAN IT BE?
Surely, it’s safer than jumping off a platform 200-feet in the air with a rubber band attached to my ankles. Unfortunately, current research indicates otherwise. The odds of being injured in a bungee cord accident are 1 in 500,000.
THE ODDS THAT SOMEONE WILL STEAL MY CHILD'S IDENTITY ARE ABOUT 1 IN 40.
Let that sink-in for a moment – statistically speaking, it is safer to bungee jump than fill out my son’s swim team application. In fact, identity thieves target children because they are “clean slates” with no credit history and unassociated social security numbers. This allows criminals to use a child’s social security number with a different date of birth, name, and address to create a new identity. As Adam Levin, the author of Swiped, points out, “there is nothing more delicious to an identity thief or scammer than to get a social security number and information for a child; in some cases, you can have a 15-year or more run where no one’s looking.”
CRIMINALS CAN USE YOUR CHILD’S IDENTITY TO BUY HOMES, FILE FRAUDULENT TAX RETURNS, OPEN NEW LINES OF CREDIT, AND QUALIFY FOR MEDICAL AND GOVERNMENT BENEFITS.
What can make matters worse is that although I will know IMMEDIATELY if my bungee cord fails, it could be a decade or more before I realize that my child’s identity has been stolen. And that is exactly what identity thieves are literally banking on. So here are a few suggestions of what you can do to protect your family:
1) WATCH THE MAIL!
If your child begins to receive pre-approved credit card offers, or solicitations for hotel or airline loyalty programs, that is a red flag that someone has stolen their identity. So are calls from debt collectors.
2) FREEZE YOUR CHILD'S CREDIT!
A credit freeze allows you to control access to your child’s credit report by requiring the use of a PIN that you choose in order for someone to see their credit report. Many states have laws that require credit agencies to help parent and guardians create new credit reports for a minor child for the express purpose of freezing it.
3) MIND YOUR SURROUNDINGS!
Be aware of who might be near you when discussing your child’s personal information. In short, be very careful with whom you share your child’s personal information especially their Social Security Number; the fewer people, the better.
4) LEARN THE PRIVACY POLICIES OF SCHOOLS AND ACTIVITY SPONSORS!
If you have to provide your child’s social security number or birthdate information, ask how it will be stored, secured, and ultimately destroyed. And don’t add key data to forms where it doesn’t seem necessary.
5) PROTECT YOUR CHILD'S SSN AND BIRTH CERTIFICATES!
Do not carry your child’s social security card around with you (and do not let your children carry them either). Ensure that you secure all of your family’s social security cards in a safe place within your home.
6) EDUCATE YOUR CHILDREN!
Perhaps more important than anything else, take the time to talk to your children and explain the importance of keeping personal information, such as last names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, and social security numbers private both in person and on-line.
Follow these steps and save the trepidation for where it really belongs…standing on a 200ft platform attached to a rubber band. If you have concerns or would like to discuss your child’s financial future, contact us at email@example.com.