Families paid an estimated $540 million in out-of-pocket costs because of child identity theft in 2017. Unfortunately, children are relatively easy targets for identity thieves, and child identity theft is becoming much more common.
According to a new report from Javelin Strategy & Research regarding child identity theft, in 2017, more than 1 million children in the United States were victims of identity theft, resulting in $2.6 billion in losses. Experts advise parents to routinely check their child’s credit score and freeze their child’s credit report even before any suspicious activity occurs. Why does a child need access to credit anyway?
Our digital world, including children establishing online footprints earlier and earlier (this helps identity thieves gain access to the information) and digitization of school and medical records, contribute to the ability of identity thieves to easily target children. Since children’s identities are worth more on the black market, they are a very tempting target for identity thieves.
According to Hemu Nigam, founder of SSP Blue, an internet security consultant business and former VP of internet enforcement at the MPAA, “In the hacker community, children’s data is so much more valuable than adult data when you’re trying to create new identities. Because there’s no existing record, a hacker can create a credit card application using legitimate information and the child and parent won’t know it happened until the child becomes of adult age — and by that time, they have an awful credit score and don’t know what’s going on.”
What can you do?
- Monitor your child’s internet usage.
- Keep your child’s social security card and other identification documents in a safe and secure spot (not your wallet!).
- Don’t post personal details about your child online. You don’t want an identity thief to have your child’s full name, address, or date of birth.
- Be careful when it comes to forms from schools, doctor offices, and others asking for personally identifiable information about your child. Skip it, if you can, or see if you can use the last four digits only.
- Just as you shred all of your own documents that contain personal information, shred all documents that show your child’s personally identifiable information.
- Remember, you can request a credit report for your child once a year for free at www.annualcreditreport.com at each of major credit bureaus, so that enables access three times a year. There should be no credit history on record. If there is, it’s likely that there’s a problem, and you should begin digging deeper and it’s not a bad idea to freeze your child’s credit if abnormal activity is detected. Since they have no need to access credit at this point in their life, there’s little to no downside — and it protects the child from starting off life with a black financial mark against them.
Are you prepared for identity theft? Get covered today.