Identity Theft and Your Kids

Identity Theft and Your Kids





Is Someone Stealing Their Lives?

You agonize over baby names, hold their hands when they cross the street, and teach them all about stranger danger because they are your most precious gifts and you want to protect them. But do you worry about someone trying to steal their identities – even when they aren’t old enough to spell their names?

The scary reality is that our kids are 51 time more likely to be the victims of identity theft than adults.

Why Are Kids So Vulnerable to Identity Theft?

Think about how many times a week you check in online with your bank, use your debit card at the gas station, or even just open your mail. Whenever you do this, you are using your identity. Now think about your kids. They are born and you present them with that baby name you lovingly chose, the birth certificates are signed, and your children are assigned a social security card number. And then they spend the next years climbing, eating, learning, and growing – but beyond knowing their own name as we sing it to them in a bedtime song, our little ones don’t really have a regular need for their personal information.

They aren’t applying for mortgages, jobs, credit cards, or car loans. They use their identifying information so much less than we do that it leaves them vulnerable – they wouldn’t see a red flag on their bank account because they either don’t have bank accounts or aren’t yet worrying about balancing their checks. Even when they get older, that doesn’t remove some of the vulnerability – in fact – it can increase it.

Norton’s Online Family Report shows that:

  • 63% of kids have responded to scams online – they don’t have the maturity to realize that “You just won $100,000, if only you give us your mom’s credit card number!” is not a legitimate offer.
  • More kids than ever are shopping online, many with their parents’ permission.
  • 77% of kids have download at least one virus – and some of these viruses exist to mine personal information from computers.
  • More children than ever are using P2P (peer-to-peer) file sharing, where open connections exist between computers.
  • 41% of kids have been approached by strangers online and asked for personal identifying information.

What Can I Do to Protect My Kids?

Parents aren’t completely helpless when it comes to protecting their children’s identities, but there is no one, easy answer. It requires diligence and commitment, and it begins when your kids are tiny tots and continues from there.

  • If you open a banking, savings, or an investment account for your young child, monitor the account’s activities, even if it is held through and managed by an investment firm.
  • Obtain a free credit report each year for your child just to make sure that there are no transactions listed for your child that shouldn’t be there. The earlier you find these errors and crimes, the less impact they will have on your child’s future.
  • Don’t share personal identifying information online about your kids – birthdates, Social Security numbers, or other identifiers.
  • Monitor your child’s internet activities and use anti-virus software.
  • Teach your child to make secure passwords and login IDs and always keep your own record of these.
  • Teach your kids about digital reputation management and the realities of stranger danger.
  • If your child uses social media sites, uses Twitter, or is texting, make sure that you have detailed conversations about privacy and that you both understand and use the privacy control settings.
  • Watch out for junk mail addressed to your kids – they shouldn’t be receiving those solicitations for colleges, loans, and credit cards before they are potty trained. If you see these offers coming in, it might be a sign that someone has forged your child’s age on an application or form. Check credit reports immediately if you suspect this has happened.

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