Back to School – How to Protect Your Children

It’s that time of year again when the kids return to school. Whether your children are just beginning elementary school or embarking onto their first days of college, there is likely one thing that was not on your back-to-school list – identity theft protection.

Children represent the largest growing segment of the population victimized by identity theft. While a child cannot purchase a car, a house, or open a credit card, their identity can be stolen. And, when a child’s identity is stolen, the possibilities for the thief are endless.

For most parents, their child’s credit is pristine, their social security numbers are untapped, and there is little reason that any irregularities would be noticed.

Because children have no use for credit, when identity theft is finally detected, the damage can be devastating. A recent study by Carnegie Mellon found:

  • 10.2% of children were victims of identity theft within the last year, compared to 0.2% of adults.
  • The youngest victim was 5 months old.
  • A 17-year-old’s identity was used to open 42 accounts racking up $725,000 in debt.

Why you should care….

Because of the former practice of assigning social security numbers at birth based on a child’s location and date of birth made it easy for people to obtain access to a child’s social security number.

In July, the SSA announced it would begin assigning social security numbers in a random fashion. Read here to learn more about the SSA Randomization Project.

Did you send your son or daughter off to college with an emergency credit card or maybe they are thinking about opening on campus for the first time. How about the general disclosure of your children’s personal information at schools and doctor’s offices? All of these practices have the potential to put their identities at risk because these institutions often fail to adequately protect personal information and are slow in responding should a data breach occur.

What you can do…

There are a number of basic precautions that you can take to keep your children’s personal data safe.

  • For starters, exercise extreme caution and protect it just as you would your own sensitive personal data.
  • When asked for your child’s personal data, do not hesitate to ask why it is needed.
  • Ask if alternate identification is accepted.
  • When disclosing personal data, ask how it will be stored and protected, or how it will be destroyed.

Always practice identity safe guards at home and teach your children why it is important to protect their personal information. Common tips include:

  • Do not carry social security cards with you. Always keep them locked in a safe place.
  • Shred documents containing any personal information before throwing them away.
  • Do not give your children their social security numbers until they understand their importance and how to protect them.
  • Teach your children the importance of sharing personal information, especially online.

Although it is not recommended to routinely monitor your child’s credit, it is suggested that you do keep your eye out for a tell tale indicators, which include receiving any type of preapproved credit cards sent under your child’s name or any offers that signal an open line of credit. Additionally, the FTC suggests that parents run their child’s credit report on their sixteenth birthday to look for possible irregularities. Doing so offers enough time before the child will apply for employment, student loans, apartments, or any other credit related responsibilities.

You can’t protect your children from everything, but taking a few, easy precautions can help ensure their identities and futures are protected.

 

 

 

August 24th, 2011 by ID Watchdog Security Team