You already worry about so much when it comes to your kid, should you really be worrying about someone stealing their identity, too? The answer is, unfortunately, yes. In the fall of 2017, Equifax revealed that from mid-May through July, 145 million consumers’ social security numbers and other personal data had been accessed in a major security breach. This massive hack put the issue of identity theft at the forefront of many parents’ minds, leaving them to wonder how this breach could affect the security of their identity and the identity of their children. While Equifax has said that none of the known victims were minors, children are certainly at risk for identity theft. According to the Center for Identity at The University of Texas, kids are actually up to 35 times more likely to have their identity stolen. Many thieves will target children because their theft can often go undetected for years, until, for example, the child applies for a driver’s license or a student loan. Instead of waiting until something happens, here are proactive measures you can take to protect your child’s identity.
1. Be protective of their social security number
Your child’s social security number can be a goldmine for identity thieves, who can use it to apply for government benefits, open credit card or bank accounts, apply for loans and more. Be very selective about who you give this information to, and do not be afraid to ask if it is absolutely necessary. While some organizations, like health care companies, schools, insurance companies and government agencies might need a social security number, a summer camp or little league most likely does not. If you absolutely must provide your child’s social security number, ask what measures are in place to protect this information.
2. Set up credit monitoring
One way to ease your mind and ensure your child’s identity is protected is to set up identity theft monitoring to monitor credit reports and activity, bank and investment accounts, personal information on the dark web and social security use. Use a trusted identity theft monitoring and protection provider, so that you will be alerted immediately if your child becomes a target. If something does happen, this type of service will help you respond and quickly recover your child’s identity.
3. Shred documents with personal data
You should already be doing this for yourself, but you should also shred any documents that contain your child’s personal information. Pay special attention to statements from bank or savings accounts in your child’s name, hospital bills, doctor’s office or insurance statements, government agency or school communications.
4. Opt out of school directories
Be mindful of the information your child’s school is asking for and sharing. If the school has a directory, and asks for personally identifying information like address, child’s name, date of birth, phone number, email address and photo, consider opting out or limiting the information shared. Schools are actually allowed by federal law to sell or share that information with anyone, but are also required to give parents the option to block or limit access to their child’s information (note that you must opt out each school year).