Protect your kids from ID theft

Sleeping childYour child could have their credit report ruined and their ID stolen while they sleep and it might be years before you would be aware that anything is amiss. Underage kids are prime targets of ID theft. A story today on states with the most identity theft complaints explains how some population segments are particularly vulnerable to ID theft:

“While everyone is vulnerable to identity theft, children and elderly people are targeted more than others, although for different reasons. According to Toporoff, children are prime targets because their information is readily available as it is stored within a school system. In addition, almost no one monitors a child’s credit report. This means a child’s stolen identity can often be used for years before the misuse is even detected.

Elderly Americans are vulnerable to identity theft for a host of reasons. They are targeted because often they have more money than younger Americans. They also tend to have more contact with medical establishments, with multiple specialists, and with multiple people such as caretakers entering their homes more often. This may partly explain the nation-leading rate of identity thefts in Florida, where nearly 19% of the population was 65 and over in 2013, the highest proportion in the country.”

How could a child’s ID be compromised? Unfortunately, all too many ways: It could happen from a large data breach, like the Anthem exposure of millions of sensitive records; it could be exposed from school records that are improperly protected; it could be exposed from a computer hack or a stolen wallet; perhaps even worse, it could be stolen by an adult that you know.

How can you protect your children from identity theft? The Federal Trade Commission offers excellent advice on monitoring and protecting your children from identity theft. They offer great ways to spot warning signs that something might be amiss, ways to protect your child’s identity, and steps to take if you have problems.

Here are some prevention tips from the FTC:

  • Find a safe location for all paper and electronic records that show your child’s personal information
  • Don’t share your child’s Social Security number unless you know and trust the other party. Ask why it’s necessary and how it will be protected. Ask if you can use a different identifier, or use only the last four digits of your child’s Social Security number.
  • Shred all documents that show your child’s personal information before throwing them away.
  • Be aware of events that put information at risk. For example, there’s an adult in your household who might want to use a child’s identity to start over; you lose a wallet, purse or paperwork that has your child’s Social Security information; there’s a break-in at your home; or a school, doctor’s office or business notifies you that your child’s information was affected by a security breach.

The FTC also suggests a number of steps you should take if you’re a parent with a child who’s enrolled in school, such as finding out who has access to your child’s information, how information is used and how it’s shared.

There are also a number of identity protection and fraud monitoring services on the market – check with your local insurance agent to see if they offer any services as part of their insurance packages.