Are you doing all that you can to keep your children safe from identity theft? Learn tactics for protecting their identities this school year.
As our world gets ever more present online its important, now more than ever, to not only teach your children about the dangers that lurk online but also protect them until they can begin to protect themselves.
Child Identity Theft
Child identity theft occurs just like most cases of identity theft does. However, children are one of the most at-risk groups when it comes to identity theft.
To a cybercriminal, obtaining a child’s information is like hitting the jackpot. Why? Well, there are two main reasons…
- They are a clean slate. A child has no past credit or debt. Obtaining this information allows the cybercriminal free reign.
- The long game. When cybercriminals get their hands on a child’s information, they will have that information for years before it goes noticed.
Because of these perks, during major data breaches, children are often impacted the most. During an average breach, 39% of fraud victims will be children whereas only 19% will be adults.
When committing this fraud, criminals will steal double the amount they would steal from an adult. Due to this, families end up paying an average of $541 in out-of-pocket recovery fees compared to the average adult fraud victim who only pays an average of $104.
Clearly, child identity theft is a massive issue that needs to be addressed. To stay on top of identity theft threats, know the signs and situations that may put your child at risk.
A situation where a child is extremely vulnerable is while they are in school.
School and Identity Theft
For all of the reasons we mentioned above, schools are the perfect place for the cybercriminal to obtain a child’s personal information. And, by hacking into school systems, they can obtain the information of numerous children at the same time.
That being said, identity theft does not always result from a hack or a cybercriminal. In some cases, physical documents are raided and stolen by a criminal.
There is no way to tell if and when your child’s identity will be stolen. The best way to safeguard your child is by learning tactics to protect their personal information.
7 Ways to Protect Your Child’s Identity this School Year
#1 – Keep Their SSN Private
When enrolling your child in school, and for every school year after, you will have to fill out paperwork for your child. This paperwork typically asks standard questions. However, some will ask for very personal information, including your child’s Social Security Number.
Asking for an S.S.N. will range from school district to school district. Most of the time, the S.S.N. is used as an identification number for the child. If they are asking for this number, the school must:
- Inform you and your child that providing it is voluntary and that refusing to provide it will not bar your child from enrolling in or attending school
- Explain for what purpose the number will be used
The school district can not turn you down for not providing the Social Security Number or require you provide it for your child to enroll.
If you do not want to provide your child’s Social, you do not have to. If you feel as though the school is pushy or will not accept the application without the S.S.N., that school may not be the right school for you.
#2 – Educate Your Child
The best way to prevent identity theft is through education. When it comes to children, they may not always know what kind of information they should and should not be sharing with their school friends or even strangers.
Children are trusting by nature, so be sure that whether they are just starting school or are going back to school after a long summer, your child is keeping their personal information to themselves online and in class.
Some ways you can teach your child more about what identity theft is are…
- Teach them what personal information is. A child may not know the things that they should not be sharing. Teach them that things like their full name, address, and Social Security number are not things to share with others.
- Explain what identity theft is. Identity theft may be a hard concept for younger children to grasp. However, it is still important to explain to them why it is so harmful. Simplify the crime in your own words and include some things a cybercriminal can do with their personal information.
- Provide ways to protect personal documents. Depending on the age of the child, they may be transporting personal documents
#3 – Manage Copies of Personal Information
When enrolling your child in a new school, you may be asked to provide copies of things like your child’s birth certificate. If you are being asked to create these copies, be sure to manage the copies you create and ask the school what they will be doing with the copies.
If you do not feel safe making copies of these documents, opt to bring in the original copy of the document for the school to view. Simply seeing the document should be enough for them to verify your child’s information.
#4 – Review Their Online Accounts
Children are creating social media accounts younger and younger. If your child is on social media, review their account to ensure that they are not leaving their identity unsecured.
When reviewing the online account, look for…
- A strong password. Children may not have the ability to create a secure password on their own. Create an account password that adds a variety of uppercase, lowercase, number, and symbols.
- An anonymous username. We know that no username is fully anonymous. However, you can make sure that your child’s full name or personal information is not included in their username.
- Personal photos. If your child has any personal photos posted on social media, delete them. Personal photos revealing pets, street names, friends, and more can give more ammunition to a cybercriminal.
- Public personal information. Be sure that no personal information is posted online or on their social media account. If there is a social account that requires some personal information, be sure that their privacy settings are up-to-date so that the information is not visible to the public.
We just wrote a whole blog about keeping your social media account secure. If you’d like more information on this topic, read How to Protect Your Identity on Social Media!
#5 – Protect Sensitive Information
Keeping sensitive information protected is very important. Depending on the age of your child, you will be protecting their information differently.
For children still living in your home, keep their information where you keep your own personal information so that you know exactly where it is. If, for some reason, they need to bring paperwork containing personal information to school, transfer the information in a sealed envelope and instruct them to deliver the information right away to eliminate the risk of it being lost.
For children living at college, buy them personal a lockbox or safe where they can keep sensitive documents in.
For children of any age, be sure that any devices are password or pin protected.
#6 – Opt-out of Child ID Kits
Have you ever heard of a Child ID Kit? This kit was created by the National Child Identification Program to help identify your child faster if they ever go missing. The completion of this kit is sometimes encouraged through your child’s school.
This kit requires:
- Inkless fingerprints
- Cards for detailing your child’s physical descriptions including a body map for pointing out scars, birthmarks, and other identifying features
- Current photos
- An easy-to-use swab to take and store a small DNA sample
Now, this is not a kit that you send back to the FBI for them to store. This kit is stored in your home or your child’s school. This kit may seem like a good idea now, but, what if this information somehow falls into the wrong hands?
If a criminal somehow acquires this information, it can be used for malicious things.
#7 – Request a Child Credit Report
As we mentioned at the beginning of the blog, child identity theft may go unnoticed for years. One way you can check in on your child’s identity is by requesting a child credit report.
Much like credit reports for adults, this report will list any loans, debts, or accounts listed under your child’s name.
In order to obtain the report…
From Experian, you can use Experian’s free Child ID Scan service or submit a written request via Experian’s website. Information you will need to include with the written request is:
- A copy of your government-issued ID, such as a state ID card or driver’s license
- A copy of a bank statement or utility bill for proof of address
- A list of any previous addresses where you’ve lived in the past two years
- A copy of your child’s birth certificate with his or her full name, including middle initial and suffix
- A copy of your child’s Social Security card
From Equifax, you will need to contact the Minor Child Department. You will need to submit:
- A letter of explanation detailing why you believe your child’s personal information was obtained or used fraudulently
- A copy of your child’s birth certificate
- Documentation of your child’s Social Security number
- A copy of your driver’s license or state-issued ID as proof of your current address
Now that you’ve learned how and why it’s important to protect your children on line what step are you going to implement to make sure they stay safe?
Any questions or concerns? Leave them in the comments below!