As a parent, it’s only natural that you love to brag about your child or children. Our kids are mini versions of ourselves and watching them reach milestones, achieve goals, and grow up never stops being a joy to witness. There is a fine line, however, between being a proud parent, and being a proud parent that shares too much. It’s not a matter of being “annoying” — it’s about your child’s identity and keeping it tucked away and safe from identity thieves.
Identity theft isn’t just something that happens to adults. On the contrary, child identity theft is it a growing problem because they are clean slates — no credit history, loans, or medical bills — and there’s a good chance no one is monitoring their credit reports. Child identity theft is easy for criminals because they can do a lot of damage that will go undetected for many years to come. If your child had his or her identity stolen, they may not find out until beginning to apply for student loans or trying to get that first credit card when they discover that a mountain of debt has already accrued under their name and social security number.
What can you do to protect your little ones from child identity theft? Research Internet safety for kids and teach your children about how to be safe online. Even if your 4-year-old only uses your tablet to play games, they should still be taught the basics about not clicking links or giving out personal information to strangers.
There’s more to the puzzle of child identity theft, though. It’s not just about things your kids could be doing to put themselves at risk — you could also be unknowingly sharing too much personal information with the wrong people.
There are a few main ways that parents share too much sensitive info, so if any of these situations sound familiar, it may be time to reevaluate how you’re protecting your child from identity thieves:
- Oversharing on social media – When the new school year started last month, how many of your friends shared pictures from the first day of school? There were probably even some that had their child hold a sign that said their name, age, grade, school, and teacher. If an identity thief saw a photo like that, they’d suddenly have all of that personal information about your child, a picture of what they look like, and could possibly trace the geotag on the photo to your home. After that, they could go through your Facebook posts to see when you wished your son or daughter a happy birthday (even though the child doesn’t have their own profile) and then add the birth date to the list of information they’re collecting. They’re also able to easily grab your name, names of family members, and any other small details that could help them steal an identity. The bottom line? Some parents make it too easy for identity thieves. It’s wonderful to be proud of your children, but don’t plaster that personal information on the Internet for anyone to steal.
- Giving out their social security number – When you have children, there are always forms to fill out for school, sports, activities, and doctors. After a while, you just get used to supplying the information as quickly as possible, handing in the form, and moving on to the next project. As a parent, however, it’s your job to question each form and think twice before giving anyone your child’s Social Security number. In most cases, they don’t actually need the SSN — they just put it on there “in case.” Ask them why they need the number and if you aren’t satisfied with the answer you receive, don’t hand it over. Those forms go through far too many hands and even if the information makes it into a database, those systems can be breached and your child’s SSN can easily fall into the wrong hands.
- Talking freely in the doctor’s office or pharmacy – When you’re dealing with medical professionals, you probably feel completely safe in sharing information. You do, however, need to be aware of the other people around you who could be listening. If the office receptionist asks you to confirm your child’s home address, phone number, and birth date, do so as quietly as possible — or write it down and hand it to them. The same goes for when you’re picking up a prescription for your child and the cashier asks for name and date of birth. It all seems simple and harmless, but you can never be sure of the intentions of those standing near you.
Parents have a lot on their plates, but protecting the identity of their children should be a top priority. Thankfully, any adult member of IdentityForce can easily select ChildWatch as an added service. That way, both parent and child can receive full identity theft protection services and receive alerts and assistance in the event information is stolen.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Kat Grigg.