Child identity theft is one of the more despicable crimes. Not only is the crime against someone who is pretty much defenseless, the crime usually goes unnoticed for years until that child needs to start establishing their credit and by then it is a nightmare to get it all straightened out. The stats you need to know if you are an adult include:
- Child identity theft is 35x more prevalent than adult
- Identity theft for children five and younger has doubled in the last year
- As much as one in ten children could be victims of identity theft
- The number of suspects per child increased 15% over the past year
Knowing these statistics what can we do to protect our kids from identity theft? These steps can set your kid up for clean credit when the time comes that they need it.
Applying for a Social Security Card
As a parent, attaining a Social Security number (SSN) is one of the first financial things that you do for your child. Unfortunately, it also marks the point in which criminals can attack our identity.
According to credit monitoring service AllClearID.com’s Jamie May, their VP of Customer Service and Chief Investigator, “the chief aim of identity theft is to be able to use a clean credit history.”
This means that because there is typically no credit history with a minor, the thief can then create the credit record they want and then abuse that credit score for personal gain.
Kids SSN Theft Prevention
Parents should make sure to share SSN of their with as few entities as possible. This means never giving it out for ID purposes and only when it is absolutely necessary.
Jamie goes on to say, “It is actually disturbing to think that this number is out there, on numerous forms. At times, this number is really required…however, mostly it is not required. Parents these days need to make sure if the SSN is actually required, and if yes, then for what?
As a parent, you should always make sure to send the forms needing SSNs through certified or registered mail that needs the confirmation signature of the recipient.
The First Bank Account
My family has a certain amount of money that each child has to save before they open their first bank accounts. We make a big deal out of it and they use these accounts to save for large purchases much later in life.
Where this can lead to ID theft is that many banks either send account holders credit offers, or they sell your basic information to advertisers so that they can send you credit offers.
Kids ID Theft Prevention Tip
In this instance the best thing you can do is to open your child’s savings account in a credit union. Credit unions work like coops and exist for the benefit of those who have money in them. This means they don’t sell your info to advertisers.
Another option, if you or one of your parents has served in the military, is USAA. They only market their products to you and all of it is done through their online portal.
If you do not have either of these options you need to watch like a hawk the marketing materials being sent to your child. If anything that may have their information or has the ability to be used to obtain credit shows up, immediately call the institution and put a stop to it.
Creating an E-mail Account
These days is very common to see young kids having their own e-mail accounts. It is nice, and give the kids a feeling of being grown-up. However, as a parent how would you make sure that your kid’s account is not being misused?
Kids are naïve, they trust easily, particularly if they believe that they are e-mailing someone known. There is a possibility that a fraudster would ask a kid for their phone number, address, or even their credit card number, and a little one would merely oblige with the information.
Preventing E-Mail ID Theft for Kids
The first thing to have in hand is that your kids are to understand that you will always have access to their accounts. If you don’t have access then they won’t have access… to anything. Their withdrawal symptoms alone will make them cave.
If you have young children, and want a somewhat hands off approach, you can start with an e-mail account made to prevent kids from the problems of the Internet. Two of the top services are:
Both are paid services, but each have a 30-day money back guarantee. KidsEmail has more features and is a better value if you are signing up three or more children.
Children should also be taught early not to click on unfamiliar links received via e-mail and that downloads without mom and dad knowing what is being downloaded are strictly prohibited.
How We Do It
For my family, we only allow e-mail once a child has proven trustworthy with their tech. And when it comes to e-mail they are only allowed to e-mail people who we set up in their address book.
This has resulted in a barrage of e-mails to family members followed by less and less e-mails as time goes on. The novelty has now worn off completely with our oldest and he rarely even checks his e-mail now.
Social Media Accounts
I don’t know about you but I am just a few years from middle school and I am not liking it one bit. As our kids age the want to be socially independent is strong, and in today’s world, social independence means having their own social media accounts.
The problem is that kids don’t fully understand how bad and devious the bad guys are. And, besides ID theft, social media doesn’t allow them to disconnect from what is going on at school.
This means we have to be there to make sure they are prepared for the worst of the Internet and the school yard.
Protecting Your Kids from Social Media ID Theft
I am big fan of erroring on the side of my kid not being cool when it comes to social media. As of this writing, all of my children are under age 10 and none of them have a single social media account.
I know that won’t be an option for long. So here are what other recommend mixed with some personal ideas:
- No accounts that I as the parent do not have access to.
- Only approved friends
- No chatting with anyone that is not on your approved friends list
- You must friend several family members and no blocking content
- Any violation of above rules results in instant account deletion
If you have any other rules or strategies you have found helpful, please help everyone out by leaving them in the comments.
Credit Freeze for Kids
This is not possible for most children. In order to freeze your credit you have to have a credit file. Since most kids do not have a credit file you cannot freeze their credit. The only exceptions is if theft has already happened.
If you want to make their credit report happen, then the easiest thing to do is add your child as an authorized user on your credit card. You do have to make sure that your issuer reports authorized users to the credit bureaus.
As soon as that credit report happens you can freeze your child’s credit until the time when they need it.
Just Keep Checking
You can check to see if your child has a credit file, or if they do their credit report, with each of the three credit bureau’s once a year at annualcreditreport.com. You can also do a free child ID report from AllClearID.com. This is a great service that does an even better job that the credit bureau’s because it focuses on the social security number not on name or age (which are often changed to help secure larger amounts of fraud).
Setting your children up for success is every parents dream. Learning how to stop child identity theft and making sure their credit is in tact when they reach adulthood is just one way we can make sure they have the greatest opportunity to for success.