Parents strive to protect their kids from harm's way. From making sure their seat belts are buckled to walking them to school, mothers and fathers take numerous precautions to ensure the safety of their kids.
However, child identity theft rarely makes an appearance at the top of the long list of parental worries. Many parents think their children may be immune to the crime, only to find out years down the line that their son or daughter has damage to their credit reports and credit scores, issues with their medical history or problems securing employment.
According to a 2008 Javelin Strategy and Research study, 5 percent of children had a credit report connected to their Social Security number. Of these individuals, 54 percent were victims of identity theft, owing on average of $12,779 in fraudulent debt.
Because child identity theft can cause numerous financial problems for a person as he or she goes through life, it’s important for parents to learn ways to reduce the risk of this type of crime. Researching various fraud protection strategies may enable families to safeguard children from growing up with unfairly damaged credit reports and scores.
1. The advent of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have enabled individuals to share information about their children with family and friends. However, parents should be careful about the details they post on these sites. In some cases, identity thieves will dig around on the Web to piece together enough personal information about a child to commit fraud. Keeping privacy settings to their most restrictive on social networking sites may help lower the risk of child identity theft.
2. Parents should always be hesitant and reluctant to share personal details about their children, including their dates of birth and Social Security numbers. If this information is absolutely required, for example by a hospital or school system, mothers and fathers need to ask how the data will be stored and protected. Also, it’s important to know how these records will be destroyed if they are no longer needed. Protecting children’s Social Security numbers is one of the most important methods of defending against identity theft.
3. Although children should not have credit reports and scores until they sign up for their first line of credit, if they are a victim of identity theft, there may be fraudulent accounts in their name. For this reason, parents should check their children’s credit reports for free each year as they would their own, using www.annualcreditreport.com. Taking this extra precaution will inform parents about the safety of their child’s financial information.