Identity thieves and other cybercriminals do not discriminate when choosing their victims. Regardless of where you live, your financial standing, or even your age, a constant threat exists relating to your personal information and how it can be used in the wrong hands. Among all the potential targets worldwide, children continue to get caught in the crosshairs because they represent a growing resource for threat actors looking for easy access to commit fraud.
If you have children in your life in any capacity, it’s critical to understand that the risk of child identity theft is very real. And even though this is unsettling news, you should thoroughly understand these risks, how children are targeted, and what you can do about limiting the chances of this type of fraud. From freezing a child’s credit to safer online habits, there are steps that you can take today to help set up kids for a brighter future.
Child Identity Theft Outlook
Any type of crime involving children is alarming, and most people are shocked to realize that child identity theft is an issue. But it is, and it continues to worsen by the day. According to a Javelin Strategy and Research report, child identity fraud losses totaled nearly $700 million in 2022. The same report revealed that 915,000 children fell victim from mid-2021 to mid-2022, which marks a slight decline from the previous year.
Even though the total number of victims fell, the risk remains high, with the average household paying $1,128 per incident of child identity fraud. This breaks down to $752 for the actual fraud and $376 in out-of-pocket expenses related to resolving the issue. An instance of child identity theft also takes nearly twice as long to resolve as an adult because it’s harder to detect, and parents aren’t always sure of the steps to take when the fraud appears.
These costs may not seem that high compared to other instances of fraud, but the dangers aren’t only financial, as lingering issues can stick with the victims into adulthood. The main reason children are a target is that the crime can easily go unnoticed for years, allowing the criminals to perpetrate continued fraud with less risk of getting caught. A child victim might only realize that they are a victim of this type of crime when they set out to seek employment, apply for college, or to file taxes on their own.
How Children are Targeted
Most children don’t have bank accounts, credit cards, online accounts, or many other sources that typically lead to identity fraud in adults. So how do criminals target them? Social media and other types of screen time appear as the more than likely candidates. Children of all ages are more and more comfortable navigating the many social media apps and platforms available to them. This comfort and familiarity also result in a lack of awareness about what they reveal online.
Scammers understand this vulnerability and often lurk on social media attempting to extract personal information from kids who have no idea of the risks. Children are much more likely to reveal personal information through social media than in real life, which is an obvious advantage for identity thieves posing as friends or as other kids through social media. And when a child reveals enough information, these bad actors are off and running, equipped with the necessary information to commit fraud.
What You Can Do About It
Monitoring your children’s screen time and social media interaction is one way you can help reduce the risk of child identity fraud. Not allowing younger children to have personal social media accounts comes highly recommended simply because it is unlikely that you’ll be able to monitor all their interactions and communications. If you choose to allow your kids access to social media, ensure that you only do so through linked accounts that you or another adult has access to and control over.
In reality, kids will most likely find themselves on social media whether you allow them to or not. Despite your best efforts to reduce the risk of child exploitation within these platforms, they will be exposed at some point, one way or another. It’s still a great idea to attempt to limit their interactions while they are young but instructing them not to interact with strangers or reveal personal information is also suggested. Even with attempts at preventative measures, the threats remain. That’s why it’s also essential to understand what to do when a child does become a victim of identity fraud.
Child Credit Freezes and Other Necessary Steps
Even before an incident of child identity theft is suspected or detected, it is advisable that you consider freezing your child’s credit. Spotting child identity fraud can be difficult but acting immediately after it is detected is essential. Such action can include freezing a child victim’s credit so their personal information cannot continue to be used for fraud. Freezing a child’s credit can be more complex than doing so for an adult, as the process is more complex because the credit report is unestablished and must first be established before a freeze can be placed on it.
One part of the process involves submitting all the required documents below to each of the credit reporting agencies:
- Cover letter: Provide the details of the request, including all contact information.
- Copy of the parent’s government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license.
- Copy of a current utility bill indicating your name and address.
- Copy of the minor’s birth certificate.
- Copy of the minor’s Social Security card.
- If the child was adopted, indicate this, and provide a document of proof.
Getting all these documents in order and contacting every credit reporting agency can be time-consuming and draining for parents. That’s why having identity theft restoration services in place can really pay off. This will give you and everyone in your family, children included, critical help and assistance whenever child identity theft occurs. These services give you a serious advantage in moving to restore a child’s stolen identity while providing valuable assistance and guidance through each step of the process.
LibertyID provides expert, full-service, fully managed identity theft restoration to individuals, couples, extended families* and businesses. LibertyID has a 100% success rate in resolving all forms of identity fraud on behalf of our subscribers.
*LibertyID defines an extended family as you, your spouse/partner, your parents and parents-in-law, and your children under the age of 25.