With back-to-school and fall sports registration imminent – sharing a child’s personal information could put them at risk for identity theft. Yet, it’s something parents are often asked to provide. Children are increasingly victims of identity theft. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, kids are 51 times more likely to be subject to identity theft than an adult. And, parents need to be diligent about how and where they share their child’s personal information. For example, submitting social security numbers on school forms and athletic registrations are all areas of vulnerability.
Here are just a few ways criminals can use children’s social security numbers:
• Apply for government benefits
• Open bank and credit card accounts
• Apply for a loan or utility service, including a cell phone account
Child identity theft can go unchecked and unnoticed for years, only to be discovered when a child starts to apply for loans or credit cards. By then the toll could be devastating with years and years of defaulted accounts. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to further protect the personal identities of children:
1. Verify that school records are secure.
2. When asked, don’t automatically share a child’s social security number with any agency or organization, unless necessary. Often, another form of identification is acceptable.
3. Know how any personal information provided on school forms will be used – and whether it will be shared, and with whom. Verify that these forms are updated and that it is indeed necessary to even provide that level of personal information.
4. Ask about the school’s directory information policy and what information is really required. Remember, opting out is always an option.
5. Review junk mail carefully! If there are things like pre-approved credit card offers, extended warranty offers on product purchases never made being addressed to a child that’s an indication that some level of personal information may have been compromised.
6. Use a cross-cut shredder to shred any unnecessary paperwork that contains a child’s personal information.
7. Remind children to never share personal information online, e.g. name, address, age, the name of the school they attend, or any other personally identifiable information that could be used to open accounts in their name.
8. The FTC Consumer Information website provides additional advice, such as identifying anybody else who may have access to a child’s personal information, e.g. outside programs offered at the child’s school.
Unfortunately, child identity theft is here to stay. Be prudent and pay careful attention to how and when a child’s information is disclosed. The last thing a parent would want is for their child to be denied a driver’s license because one has already been issued with their child’s name and social security number, or being denied a loan for a car, or student financial aid, due to bad credit.
About Judy Leary
Under Judy’s leadership, IdentityForce has also earned a 95% customer satisfaction rating, a 98% renewal rating among its members, and a 100% success rate in restoring the identities of confirmed identity theft victims. Thanks to her commitment to members and their families, IdentityForce is the only identity protection provider to earn the Parent Tested Parent Approved Seal. A passionate world traveler and a dedicated volunteer, Judy also supports the Alzheimer’s Association, Mazie Mentoring Program, and Sunshine Golden Retriever Rescue. Judy sits on the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of the Better Business Bureau for Eastern
Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont.