How to protect your kids from identity theft
Written by a NortonLifeLock employee
Did you know that one in ten children will be the victim of identity theft before they turn 18? Kids are tempting targets for identity thieves. They have a clean credit history, and most parents don’t check their child’s credit regularly, so thieves may be able to use the number for years before they are caught. In fact, many parents don’t realize their child has been the victim of identity theft until they are turned down for a car or student loan or are unable to obtain a driver’s license.
Using your child’s identity
Identity thieves can rack up thousands of dollars in unpaid bills using your child’s identity, but credit cards and loans aren’t the only reason a thief might steal your child’s information. It may also be used to:
- Open a bank account
- Collect social security benefits
- Apply for Medicaid and other government services
- Claim your child as a dependent on another person’s tax report
- Create a fraudulent tax return
- Start a utility service
- Rent or buy a home
- Get a job
- Obtain prescription drugs
- Access expensive medical services
Protecting your child’s identifying info
It is possible to erase the effects of identity theft, but it can be a time-consuming and frustrating process. Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to protect your child from identity theft.
- Don’t give your child’s social security number to anyone, even family members.
- Don’t carry your child’s social security card in your wallet.
- When mailing documents with personal information, drop the envelope in a secure mailbox.
- Shred documents with personal information.
- Don’t sign up for magazines or mailing lists with your child’s information.
- Keep your child’s identifying documents locked away in a safety deposit box or family safe. This includes your child’s birth certificate, social security number and passport.
Staying vigilant about online safety
Sophisticated identity thieves use many tricks to glean personal information online. You might be surprised to learn how much you are sharing without even realizing it. To protect your family’s data:
- Limit the amount of personal information you share on social media. Divulging your child’s full name, date of birth and address may be enough to compromise their safety.
- Talk to your children about keeping their personal information safe on social media, gaming sites and the Internet. Warn them that it is not safe to download games or apps from third-party sites. Be sure they maintain the strictest privacy settings on Facebook, Instagram and other social networks.
- Beware of online quizzes, which can be used to mine for personal information such as your mother’s maiden name or the name of the street where you live.
- Remind your child to be wary of chatting online with anyone they do not know personally.
- Install firewalls and anti-virus/spam software and update security patches to keep your personal computer secure. Change your passwords regularly, and don’t use the same password on multiple accounts.
Exercising caution on official forms and documents
When you sign your child up for school or take them to a new doctor, you’ll fill out a lot of paperwork. Most is necessary, but it still makes sense to take precautions.
- When filling out paperwork for school, doctors offices, dentists and extracurricular activities, ask if it is really necessary to include your child’s social security number, or if the last four digits or another identifying number can be used.
- Be aware that your child’s school file may be shared with outside parties. However, the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act gives parents the right to opt of out of information sharing.
- Talk to the staff in offices where your child’s personal information is kept. Ask how the information is used, where it is stored, and how it is disposed of.
- Don’t give out personal information over the Internet, mail or phone
unless you are certain the person you are speaking to is trustworthy
and that they are who they claim to be.
- At the doctor’s office, dentist, pharmacist or school, write down personal information for the receptionist instead of sharing it aloud. Thieves may lurk in these places, waiting to copy down overheard details.
Checking your child’s credit history
Check your child’s credit history every few years - especially around the time they turn 16. This gives you time to clear up any problems before your child leaves for college or a career. You should also check your child’s credit history if:
- A purse, wallet or phone with your child’s information in it is lost or stolen
- Your home is broken into
- Your child’s school or doctor’s office informs you that they’ve had a security breach
- An untrustworthy family member or friend has been in your home
If you spot something amiss on a credit report, contact the agency to learn how to address the problem. You may also need to file a police report and freeze your child’s credit.
Other signs of identity theft
If it’s been a while since you checked your child’s credit, the first clue that their identity has been stolen may arrive in your mailbox. You may begin to receive bills, calls and notifications that don’t make sense, such as:
- Loan offers and credit card offers addressed to your child
- Bills addressed to your child
- Collections calls for your child
- A notice from the IRS that your child didn’t pay any income taxes
- A notice from the IRS stating that your child was claimed as a dependent on another tax return
- Explanation of benefits statements for office visits and treatments that your child did not receive
- Notification from your heath plan that you have reached your benefit limit
Identity theft can also cause problems when your child applies for an account or drivers license. Check their credit if they have been turned down for:
- Government benefits such a Medicaid because the Social Security number is already being used
- Insurance because your child’s medical record shows they have a condition that they don’t have
- A bank account
- A driver’s license
Bad credit isn’t the only concern when your child’s identity is stolen. If the thieves are charged with other crimes, those crimes may become tied to your child’s records. Being the victim of identity theft can even put your child’s future employment opportunities at risk. Protect your child’s sensitive information as carefully as you do your own.
Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. NortonLifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.
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