While it may seem like something that can only happen to adults, online identity theft is an issue that affects many children and their parents. As our daily lives become increasingly dependent on technology, our personal information can easily be compromised in the digital realm. Here’s what parents need to know about child identity theft:
How it can happen
There are many different ways that identity thieves can obtain a child’s personal information. We’re often asked to share personal information in school records, medical forms, and even on social networking websites. Once an identity thief has access to these types of documents, they have your child’s name and social security number, and are then able to open up various lines of credit under that identity. It can damage your child’s credit long before you ever realize it.
One of the reasons that identity thieves target children is that they’re easy to prey on for many years. By the time a child goes to apply for their first job, driver’s permit, or their first line of credit, extensive damage may have been done. Undoing the damage and repairing credit is no easy task, and it can have a significant and negative impact on your child’s life well into adulthood.
How to prevent child identity theft
Online identity theft can happen to anyone, regardless of their age. However, there are some important steps that both parents and kids can take to prevent it. Make sure that your child understands the importance of never giving out their personal information online, especially their social security number. They should not enter identifying information on web forms or on any websites. Explain to your child that if a website or cell phone app is requesting their name, birthdate, social security number, address, or phone number, they need to let you know right away.
As a parent, you also need to be cautious about sharing their info. If you don’t feel comfortably giving out their social security number on what appears to be an official type of form, either online or an actual paper document, trust your instincts, and just don’t do it. Keep your child’s social security card stored away safely in your home, and never carry it out with you.
Once your child reaches the age of 16, they will be able to receive a free copy of their credit report each year. Help them to obtain a copy from the main credit reporting companies so that you can review it together and ensure that there are no suspicious accounts listed on it. You can also check to see if there is any incorrect info on the report that they will need to have fixed. In USA, there is the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, so once you are aware of any misconduct make sure to inform the appropriate authorities.
As a parent, child safety is undoubtedly your number one priority. By being aware of how online identity theft works, you can keep your child protected. Guard their personal information, and make sure that they understand the importance of not sharing their personal data online.
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