How to Protect Your Children from Digital Identity Theft

Most adults probably don’t realize that children can also be victims of identity theft. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, child identity theft has become the fastest growing type of identity theft. The FTC reports more than 50,000 known cases of child identity theft from 2010 to 2012. One study from AllClear ID estimates that as many as one in ten children in the United States are victims of identity theft.

Child identity theft often goes unnoticed because thieves use a child’s Social Security number to open bank accounts and purchase homes. Adult identity theft victims might discover damage to their credit score while opening a credit card, but children may not find out about a stolen identity until they are an adult renting their first apartment. At that point, their information may have been used for years without their knowledge.

Identity thieves targeting children can get identifying information from hospital birth records, schools, and even doctor offices. Add to that children who are active online may also be putting themselves at risk. The following tips can help decrease the risk of your child’s identity being stolen from online activity:

  • Remind your children to never share identifying information, such as their full birth date, online.

  • Teach children to never share their Social Security number online.

  • Teach your children to identify phishing e-mails and to not respond to or click through their links.

  • Teach your teens to look for https in URLs at sites when shopping online to ensure that they’re providing credit card information through a secure site.

  • Ask your teens not to do any online banking or shopping on public computers, via their phones, or when using a shared Wi-Fi connection.

  • Consider subscribing to both computer and identity monitoring services.

  • Install antivirus software on your computer, tablets, and smartphones.

  • Remind your children to protect laptops and phones against theft or loss, especially when transporting such devices in a backpack or school tote. A laptop with private account information goes missing about every 50 seconds.

  • Ask your children to use password protection on all devices and remind them to log out of sites and devices.

  • Teach your children to not click sidebar and pop-up ads when they are online.

  • Ask children to not create e-mails and profile names that include identifying information such as birthdates, addresses, or Social Security numbers.

  • Teach kids to come to you immediately if a site asks them to provide personal information.

  • Remind children to never share passwords or store them in an easy-to-find location.

  • Teach children how to create strong passwords and avoid reusing passwords for multiple accounts.

  • Ask teens to not store sensitive information on laptops or phones.

  • Ask your children to not accept Friend requests from people they don’t know. Identity thieves use access to social media accounts to get password-protection answers, such as the victim’s mom’s maiden name or the victim’s pet’s name.

  • Talk to your children about identity theft just like you talk to them about other risks.

Remind your children to never share your identifying information, either!

If any of the following events occur, consider checking to ensure that your child’s identity has not been stolen by identity thieves:

  • Your child receives unsolicited credit card applications.

  • Your child receives unsolicited loyalty reward program applications.

  • Your child’s bank statements or credit card statements stop arriving.

  • Your child applies for his first credit card and is turned down.

  • Your child receives a credit card statement for an account that is not hers.

  • Your child receives calls from a collection service.

  • The IRS notifies you that a child you have listed as a dependent also appears on another tax return.

  • Your child receives an IRS notification of overdue taxes, and your child has never had a job.

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