Protecting Children From Identity Theft
Identity fraud goes in and out of the headlines with regularity, and while it can be overwhelming to try to keep up with the most current scams, we frequently hear updates from various news sources about guarding our identities. The latest scams are putting our children’s identities at risk. This month, we will focus on ways to protect the kids in your life from identity fraud.
Protect Personal Information (Yes, It Really Is THAT Valuable!)
Identity theft happens when someone obtains personal information and uses it to get services or benefits. Children are especially at risk because they typically have a blank credit history and there is rarely a reason to run a credit report on a child, allowing scammers a greater chance of undetected fraud. Someone may use a child’s Social Security number or full name and address to sign up for a utility service, rent a place to live, or apply for a loan or credit card. A scammer’s standard operating procedure is testing the identifying information with a few smaller transactions and building credit by initially paying for the goods or services charged. Over time, as credit builds on the small transactions and the fraud goes undetected, a larger purchase, such as a car, will be made before abandoning the stolen identity. To protect against scams like this, be sure your child knows to never give away their personal information. Let them know that it is a parent’s job to decide who needs access to this information, and that no legitimate online service will ask these questions of them.
According to an FTC article titled How to Protect Your Child From Identity Theft, protecting your child's personal information starts at home with protecting documents by storing them in a safe place and shredding before disposing of them, deleting personal information from computers and phones before donating, and watching for mail, email, or phone calls using their name. You should be suspicious if you receive postal mail or phone calls using your child's information, credit card or other bills in their name, letters from the IRS that taxes are owed, or notifications of a denial of credit. These are all signs that someone is fraudulently using your child's information.
Watch Out For Seemingly Harmless Online Quizzes
Social media quizzes that ask for the name of your first pet or your elementary school best friend are often established by individuals hoping to glean answers to personal questions that are frequently used as password protective devices. While it can be tempting to participate in these fun and often silly activities, remind your child to think twice. Many pre-teens and young teens establish online accounts and create a profile, which will live on for many years. Keeping these answers to him or herself could save a lot of effort and lost time and money in the future and the information that they share now creates a background for criminals in the future. The temporary enjoyment of participating in this type of activity is simply not worth the potential risk.
Be Careful When Downloading New Apps and Games
Trends are constantly changing and our children want to be up on the latest apps and online games. Any game that asks for their address, full name, or phone number should be considered off-limits. Many apps ask for permission to access certain information on your device, and an app designer with ill intentions can easily gain access to sensitive information stored in the device, such as account numbers and passwords. Be sure children know to never allow this access.
Learn How to Identify Who to Trust
As children navigate the internet, they will have questions about how to know who to trust. The obvious answer is to not trust anyone they don’t know through an adult they are close to. Sometimes strangers will seem friendly online, but will eventually ask for something in return. An easy way to identify a scammer is by a strange username, such as something like CutePuppy459032. Often, scammers create usernames from appealing words and random numbers. Kids should know to never click on links provided by strangers – either sent via text or within games or other apps. Of course, keeping all accounts private and declining messages from unknown parties is another simple way for children to avoid falling victim to online scams.
Check for the Existence of a Credit Report by Age 16 or If Suspicious Activity Occurs
If you suspect your child's identity may have been stolen, or in any event by the age of 16, it is advisable to make sure your child's credit has not been misused. Contact the three credit bureaus by telephone and ask for a manual search of your underage child's Social Security number. You may be asked to provide identifying information for both yourself and your child. Please note that, due to federal requirements, requests for children under the age of 13 cannot be requested online. However, credit reports for minors between the ages of 13 through 17 can be requested through the AnnualCreditReport.com website page for Special Situations.
Living in a Digital World
There is no practical way to fully escape the digital world that we live in, and children are becoming engaged in online activities at increasingly younger ages. In many ways, this is a great benefit to our youngest generation. Think of the information they have at their fingertips and the early age at which they can dive into topics of interest to them. While monitoring our kids online is extremely important, so is teaching them the basics of cyber safety. Teens are often targets for identity theft because the risk of becoming a victim isn't on their radar. They don't always understand that their actions are making them vulnerable, and they are often unaware of the severe consequences. Discuss the importance of safeguarding their personal information, and make sure the lines of communication are open so that they feel comfortable asking questions as they come up. Scammers will continue to change their techniques to be more effective, and the best protection we can provide our children is through information and age appropriate internet access. Find more ideas about safeguarding your children in the digital world at safesearchkids.com.
We are Standing Ready to Help You and Your Family
If you suspect identity fraud has affected any member of your family, even your minor children, you have access to a professional Identity Theft Recovery Advocate as a no-cost benefit of your <EMBEDDED ACCOUNT>. An Identity Theft Recovery Advocate is standing by to help you discover the extent of the damage and reverse any fraudulent activity to help you assure your child's future and good name. Our trained advocates are experienced in spotting child identity theft and supporting you through the process of repairing the harm it causes.