Don’t make the mistake of treating your kid’s personal information any less seriously than you’d treat your own. Your child’s identity is a high-value theft target, and you should take steps to secure it:
1. Freeze That File
A growing number of states now allow parents to create a credit report in their children’s names and then apply a long-term freeze. This is different from a freeze on an adult’s credit report that has to be renewed every 90 days.
Currently, 27 states have legislation according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). A freeze can also be placed on the file of any incapacitated individual.
2. Monitor Social Media
Who pays the cell phone bill or the Internet tab in your home? It’s the parents, of course. However, today’s youth believe they have the right to total privacy on those devices.
To monitor social media for any serious threats, you have to retain some access. Write out an official agreement for your child to sign. Include reporting any hate posts or bullying immediately to a parent. Explain to your kids before they go online that this privilege will end if it’s not open for parental review.
Our social media monitoring service can alert you when it’s time to check up on your kids online. You select key words to monitor on your child’s account, and you’ll get notified when they are used.
3. Just Say No to Schools
It may seem obvious not to share your student’s key personal data like a Social Security number (SSN) with strangers. Yet, as parents, we do just that at the start of every school year. Form after form will request that SSN, date of birth, and other information.
These intrusive forms often date back a decade or more to a time when child ID theft was unknown. Just leave those spaces blank. You may have to provide a birth date but don’t fill in your child’s SSN. It’s unlikely you’ll even get a phone call because this information was omitted, but if someone asks for that SSN, ask why.
Applications for scholarships or financial aid may be one exception. Ask the requesting school or college how they secure their data. An unlocked filing cabinet is a lousy answer. All forms should be encrypted or otherwise secured.
4. Pull a Credit Report
Before your child turns 16, request a credit report from Experian, Equifax or TransUnion. It should be perfectly clean. Your children will need a stellar credit file when they rent an apartment, apply for a car loan, or seek student loans. Check out the data trail that exists and make sure there are no surprises. Remember, child ID theft victims can be linked with foreclosures, auto loan defaults and a lot more.
5. Create Credit Records Early
Your child won’t need to buy that car until they are heading off to college or a new career. The easiest way for them to get credit is to ask for a limited amount well before they need it.
Credit card companies like to contact college students and offer easy credit. It can be a trap. If your child’s working in high school part time, use that as a path to apply for a low-limit credit card. Monitor closely the spending and payments. A pre-pay card—where you put up $400 and get a card with the same limit—is an easy first step. After paying responsibly for a period, you get the original ‘insurance’ payment back and your child’s credit will continue to improve.
If you’ve had any issues with child identity theft, we’d like to hear your story. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.