Overview: Thieves will often target children to obtain their sensitive personal information for the purposes of committing fraud. Parents will need to be careful with personal documents, ask questions of anybody requesting sensitive data, and teach kids about identity thieves.
Why Do Thieves Target Children For Identity Theft?
As reprehensible as it sounds, it’s easier to get personal information from a child. Kids think nothing of, for example, telling someone their full name, their birthday, or where they live. Sometimes that information is all thieves need to steal a child’s identity.
They don’t even need to interact with the child directly. They can collect much of this information through fake giveaways, “login pages,” or other seemingly official forms. Some gather information by monitoring chat apps as “lurkers” or by studying profile pictures and other information. In some cases, thieves will pretend to represent a scholarship board or similar organization and ask for the data outright.
What Is Child Identity Data Used For?
Children’s identities are used for all forms of identity theft. Unfortunately, there’s rarely a way to check age with a Social Security number, and private organizations like utilities usually have neither the tools nor the time to fully check out claims. Children can enter young adulthood and discover their credit has been ruined before they’ve even considered taking out a loan. In some cases, even family members or parents of friends commit the fraud.
How to Prevent Theft of Your Child’s Identity
Keep an eye out for unusual mail, such as credit card solicitations addressed to your toddler or mail from the IRS or other government agency to your 10-year-old. If you receive this type of suspicious mail, run a credit report to find out if there is one in your child’s name. If you find fraudulent activity (or any activity at all in most cases), close the accounts, freeze your child’s credit, and report it to the Federal Trade Commission at IdentityTheft.gov.
How Can I Protect My Child’s Identity?
- Teach kids to spot scammers and frauds as part of the rules of having a phone. Emphasize the need to be skeptical of people who ask for their birth date, their full name, or other identifying information.
- Install parental control software and anti-spam tools that blacklist “harvesting” sites that attempt to steal information.
- Make sure kids understand any form or questionnaire they’re presented with should be run by you before they fill it out.
- If somebody claiming to be from a school or a similar institution is requesting sensitive information, ask why that particular information is needed, how it’ll be secured, and whether other information can be used.
- Put any accounts for online entities such as video game subscriptions in your name, not your child’s.
- Lock up paper copies of sensitive documents and fully wipe any laptops, phones, tablets, or other devices that may carry that information before you dispose of them. Destroy any documents you need to throw away by shredding or burning them.
It’s never too early for kids to learn how to protect their identities, but they’ll need help as they navigate the internet. Parental control software like Screen Time can keep kids away from dangerous sites and give you peace of mind. To learn more, try it for free!