One in 40 families in the United States fall victim to child identity theft, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Child identity theft costed more than $24 billion in financial losses according to this study. Children are especially attractive targets because they “provide identity thieves with a blank slate from which they can apply for credit and take out loans,” according to Equifax, one of the three leading credit bureaus in the United States.
Is your toddler receiving credit card offers in the mail? Then you may want to think about purchasing fraud protection for the little one who is still in diapers. That’s because more and more young children are having their identities stolen—and it can take years for them or their parents to realize. In fact, the youngest reported victim of identity theft was only 1 month old!
Did you know some credit monitoring apps offer up to $1 Million Identity Fraud Insurance? This may be a good way to protect your kids against identity theft, as by paying such small subscription as $9.99/month you can sleep soundly in case a hacker may target your children for identity theft, especially since child identity theft can go undetected for many years, until the child applies for credit in his or her own name, or tries to lease a car or an apartment. By this time, the damage may be difficult to unravel, and can have negative consequences for your child for a long time.
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Children are also an easy target because many family members and close friends of the family are aware of the basic information needed to open credit in your child’s name, such as his or her birthday and address, and perhaps even the child’s Social Security Number. It seems child identity theft is becoming a trend amongst criminals, a sole reason why safeguarding your child’s credit is so important.
Child Identity Theft: Tips to Prevent It
Here are several action steps that experts suggest to protect your children’s identity from being stolen.
1. Keep Financial Documents away from Peeping Eyes
“Make sure you keep any financial documents related to your children in a safe place,” recommend the folks at Equifax. This includes children’s Social Security cards, medical insurance cards, bank and other financial statements, birth certificates, and passports. Don’t carry them around unless absolutely necessary. Put them in a safe, or file them away in a locked cabinet where guests or visitors cannot access them. Your child identity theft can be avoided by keeping personal information safe same as you would do with an adult’s.
2. Freeze your Child’s Credit
You can contact each of the three credit bureaus to place a security freeze on your child’s credit. That will make it difficult for a thief to take out a loan in your child’s name. Some credit monitoring plans, including SmartCredit.com’s Live ID Theft Alerts, enable you to monitor and/or lock your child’s credit. To prevent child identity theft, consider signing up to a credit monitoring app and freezing your kids credit score until needed.
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3. Limit the Personal Information Shared with Schools and Camps
Before filling out your child’s Social Security number on school and camp forms, find out whether such information is absolutely required. Take it from those in the know at the Federal Trade Commission: “Ask if you can use a different identifier, or use only the last four digits of your child’s Social Security number.” If the full Social Security number is indeed a must, then ask how the school or camp plans to use your child’s personal information, and what steps will be taken to safeguard this information.
Another good rule of thumb is to check your kids’ credit reports on an annual basis at the same time that you check your own. You can do so by signing up for Smart Credit Report, an interactive way to view your credit history and credit score, and easily fix any errors. Just as you do everything in your power to protect your child, make sure you are safeguarding your child’s credit, too.
4. Sign up for ID Theft Alerts to Protect your Entire Family
Credit monitoring apps like SmartCredit.com offer ID theft alerts to stay protected against this crime. You can easily prevent not only child identity theft but also the adults in the family.
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