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Identity theft feels like an adult problem, one that comes with having a bank account, line of credit or other financial responsibilities. However, the present cybercrime landscape contains threats that can affect individuals of any age. If you're sending kids back to school this fall, they may be entering a risk-intensive environment for identity theft.
Despite the fact that conventional methods of fraud don't appear to affect minors - after all, they don't have their own bank accounts or credit cards to compromise - criminals have found a way to cause damage. By creating "hybrid" identities with false names and addresses matched with stolen Social Security numbers, they give themselves a way to open new lines of credit. Kids' Social Security numbers make especially good targets for these thieves, as those credentials haven't yet been used for legitimate transactions.
Staying Aware of ID Risk in Schools
While the school system isn't the only place a child's personally identifiable information can be stolen from, they are one of the primary venues that will keep digital records on children. Therefore, a breach of a school database could create opportunities for data thieves to commit financial fraud and related crimes. School records, alongside medical data and extracurricular activity information, are considerable sources of fraud risk.
It's possible for school records to become tools of fraudsters even if the data is never compromised by outside sources. People with access to the files could misuse that access. According to Javelin's report on child identity theft, sponsored by Identity Guard, in 4 percent of fraud cases perpetrated by someone who knows the victim personally, parents believe their kids' data was compromised by a school employee. While that accounts for fewer cases than family friends - 33 percent - it's still a significant amount. Peers can even leak personal data as a form of bullying. Fellow kids were implicated in 2 percent of familiar identity thefts.
Keeping a Close Eye on Personal Data
It's never too early to protect you child's personally identifiable information. When preparing for this upcoming school year, consider steps you can take to keep your kids' data as secure as possible. The consequences of a data leak now may not become evident until years later, when the child grows up and begins using his or her financial information to open a savings account, apply for loans and the like.
The Better Business Bureau gave a few hints about protecting kids' information. First and foremost, kids should never carry their Social Security information with them. All physical documents with that data, such as a Social Security card, should be under lock and key. When school administrators ask for a Social Security number, parents should ask why the data is needed, how it will be protected, who has access to it and whether it's actually necessary for collection. Defenses may vary widely between schools. If a school can't give specific information about information storage, that may be cause for concern.
Pay Attention to Warning Signs
When you begin receiving alerts about your child's credit in the mail, it may be tempting to ignore them - the child obviously doesn't have credit yet, so it must be a clerical mistake, right? But those mailings may actually be a sign of identity fraud.
Identity protection alerts from services such as Identity Guard can give early indication of threats. When kids have had their information compromised, it may be years before the breach is known. Warning systems can be a valuable way to know as soon as possible whether a problem is brewing.
There are identity theft protection plans and options available that monitor online behavior for risks, check numerous accounts for signs of trouble and send quick alerts to allow proactive protection. In this online age, it’s clear why adults need such protection. Now, it’s time to extend the same care to kids’ online details. Get Identity Guard today - now with IBM Watson for advanced detection.