When you think of identity theft, you may picture people hiding in the dark corners of Wi-Fi cafes and storing your personal information on their hard drives. Identity theft has become a frequent problem for adults, but did you know your children’s identities can be stolen as well? One woman learned this the hard way, when her credit report showed that she had a credit card with a $30,000 balance that she had been allegedly using since she was 1 year old.
Thieves won’t think twice about stealing your child’s Social Security number and opening bogus accounts, but there are steps you can take to prevent that from happening. Consider the following advice:
Lock up official documents. This is a simple solution, but store official documents pertaining to your child’s identity in a fireproof safe in your home. This includes things like the Social Security Card, birth certificate and any documents containing sensitive information. Storing documents in a safe may seem like an unnecessary precaution, but opportunistic thieves may enter your home when you least expect it. In the event that you have to evacuate your home – or can’t get there – due to a disaster, you can rest assured knowing your family’s confidential information is protected.
Guard data. What you share on Facebook and Twitter can be a trail for identity thieves to follow. Talking about your child’s birthday or how old they are can be an easy clue as to their date of birth, an important piece of personal information in cases of identification. From there, a thief could engineer enough information to sign up for a credit card or open a bank account in your child’s name.
While many organizations and schools use one’s Social Security number as a means of identification, always ask if alternative identifiers are acceptable. Ask if there is a legal requirement that you provide your child’s Social Security information and ask how it be used. Be sure that those who have access to your child’s data handle it properly.
Practice safe disposal. Use a cross-cut shredder to dispose of official documents. A simple shredder that shred paper into strips is not enough; thieves can easily piece-together those strips.
Check your child’s credit report. Use AnnualCreditReport.com to check your child’s credit reports from the three major bureaus for free. If there is any sign of fraud, you can easily file a claim to correct the misinformation. The Federal Trade Commission has a free step-by-step guide with tips on how to fix fraudulent information on your child’s credit report.
Be cautious. If mail offering your children pre-approved credit cards, mortgages and loans starts arriving, check their credit score. Any suspicious financial documents can signal that fraud has occurred and your child’s identity is at risk.
Identity theft has become a prevalent problem. However, with some awareness and proper precautions, you can keep your child’s identity safe and secure. Treat your children’s sensitive information as you would your own, so they don’t wind up with any surprises on their credit report.