Whether it’s teaching them the safest way to cross the street or trying to keep your teen from making bad decisions, parents are always on the lookout for something that might harm their child or their future.
But there’s one threat out there most parents haven’t considered: child identity theft. You might not know that children are actually 35 times actually 35 times more likely to be the victim of identity theft, according to study by Texas Legal’s identity theft monitoring and restoration partner, All Clear ID.
Nearly 11 percent of the children’s identities the company scanned came up as victims of identity theft. And the younger the child, the more likely they are to be at risk because a possible identity thief has more time before the theft might be noticed.
What does an identity thief want with a child’s identity? After all, most kids don’t have a large bank account or credit cards for a shopping spree. But that’s precisely the point. If an identity thief can steal a child’s social security number, he or she can use it to open accounts and take out loans in a child’s name. Adults are used to checking their monthly statements or get a call about a suspicious transaction. But a child’s identity isn’t usually considered until they’re applying for scholarships and student loans. By then, the damage might already be done.
Take a look at a few stories uncovered by AllClearID’s investigation into child identity theft:
- 11 year-old Brianna from Georgia was found to have a mortgage, a car loan and nine different credit cards opened with her security number, totaling almost $125,000 in debt.
- Makenna, an 8 year-old from Texas, was denied health insurance coverage under her parents because there was a work history associated with her social security number. Three identity thieves had been using her Social Security number since she was sixyears-old with a total of 33 accounts and nearly $40,000 in debt.
- 19 year-old Lindsay was denied her dream internship because her social security number had been used by someone else for employment for years. It took her months of paperwork and phone calls to fix her identity.
So how can you best protect your child? Here are AllClear ID’s top tips on protecting your family from child identity theft.
1) Get a child scan, not a credit report.
Adults know they should check their credit reports regularly. But that’s not the most effective strategy when preventing child identity theft. A credit report shows activity associated with a certain name, but most often, identity thieves steal a child’s social security number and use it with another name. A better alternative is a Child Scan. AllClearID and TransUnion offer a free child scan, but it’s important to have them done regularly to monitor for fraud.
2) Keep their SSN under lock and key.
Once you receive your child’s social security card, keep it in a secure location, like a locked safe. Be aware of any other documents, like medical records, that may contain this information and store or dispose of them securely.
3) Keep computers secure.
Make sure you get anti-virus software updates and secure your home wireless network. This prevents identity thieves from getting inside your computer or stealing information you’ve sent on the internet. Only use a secure wireless network to send sensitive information.
4) Teach your kids about privacy and protect their identities online.
You might not think twice about sharing that photo of your child with their full name and birth date, but an identity thief could use that as a starting point – guessing passwords or security questions to find out sensitive information. Teach your kids about privacy and online security and be a good example by practicing it yourself.
If you’re concerned about child identity theft, you might consider identity monitoring. Texas Legal members have access to AllClearID’s excellent identity monitoring and restoration services through our Secure and Preferred Plans. Although our plans only cover monitoring for the main policy holder, AllClearID offers an additional child identity protection service for only $4.95 per child each month.