Preventing Identity Theft: The Pro Parent Guide
Say what you will about identity thieves – you can’t accuse them of discrimination.
They’re open-minded enough to target anyone, including kids. (Aww, how sweet!)
Your children make perfect identity theft victims because they have sparkly clean financial histories. Carnegie Mellon CyLab finds that minors are 51 times more likely than adults to have their identities stolen.
Time to beat these ID thieves at their own nasty, little games. Follow our Pro Parent guide below to learn essential child identity-protection tips.
The Pro Parent Guide to Preventing Child Identity Theft
- Your child receives credit card offers, collections calls and traffic citations. If Little Mikey’s maxed out the AmEx, something fishy is going on.
- You receive communication from the IRS stating that you can’t claim your child as a dependent or that your child owes the government back taxes.
- You experience issues setting up a bank account for your child.
- Your child’s application for a loan, college financial aid or a mortgage is denied.
Smart next steps:
- For children 16-years-old and under, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests checking credit reports only once every 3-4 years.
- For children 16-years-old and over, the time is right to request a credit report.
If you find suspicious behavior, you’ve got enough time to repair the damage before your kids start applying for legitimate loans or financial aid.
- If you find fraudulent activity on your child’s credit report, let Experian, Equifax and TransUnion know right away.The FTC recommends: “Ask each company to remove all accounts, account inquiries, and collection notices from any file associated with your child’s name and Social Security number.Learn more about how to dispute errors.
- It’s all about monitoring (this is not the same as requesting a credit report). ID thieves target kids because parents rarely keep tabs on the health of their identities.Use a comprehensive identity-monitoring tool that frequently scans thousands of databases. You’ll immediately receive alerts if something suspicious happens.
Healthy identity tips:
- When asked to give your children’s SSNs for school, camp or extracurricular sports, always first discuss where this information will be stored and what will be done with it.You’re the ultimate gatekeeper; negotiate with these parties if sharing this info doesn’t feel right.
- Teach your kids about the types of personal information that should be kept private. Rule #1: They should never share their birthdates online (and that goes for you too, mom and dad).ID thieves are crafty enough to use birthday info to figure out SSNs.
- Keep your family schooled on how to spot spam and phishing scams. Legitimate 3rd parties will never contact you out of the blue, asking for private data like DOB, a SSN or bank account information.
- Make your children hip to the dark arts of online quizzes. Let them know that they are only thinly veiled attempts to gather their private data to sell, trade, swap or share.
- Always keep SSN cards and birth certificates in secure, fire-safe locations. Wallets, pockets and book bags are historically bad ideas for stashing important documents.
To learn more, click over to the Federal Trade Commission’s child identity theft page.