As a parent, you expect to receive the occasional note from your child’s teacher, healthcare provider or coach. But what happens when you get a letter from the IRS saying your child didn’t pay income taxes and faces a penalty?
Child identity theft is on the rise. In fact, according to the Federal Trade Commission, 6% of all identity theft victims are under age 20. Why? A child’s “blank slate” credit history can be a prime target for identity thieves when opening new bank or credit card accounts, or even filling out fraudulent tax returns.
Compounding the problem, many parents don’t think about checking their kids’ credit reports — especially with children who aren’t old enough to run a lemonade stand, much less apply for a bank loan.
Although child identity theft is becoming more common, your family doesn’t have to be a victim. One way you can fight back is signing up for IdentityForce’s ChildWatch. For just $2.75/month, ChildWatch provides thorough and ongoing monitoring of your child’s identity, including continuous:
- Monitoring of thousands of websites, chat rooms, blogs and other data sources, watching for any exposure of your child’s personal information
- Checking for suspicious activity associated with your child’s name and Social Security number as well as any attempts of trading and selling of this information
- Alerting you if any suspicious activity is detected
In addition, should something happen to your child’s identity, ChildWatch provides access to an identity restoration specialist and $1 million in identity theft insurance.
But even with strong coverage like ChildWatch in place, it’s always a good idea to be extra cautious. Here are three steps you can take to protect your kids’ information:
- Keep an eye out for any junk mail addressed to your child or telemarketers who call asking for your child. Be particularly suspicious of pre-approved credit card offers, information on products that you didn’t purchase or health insurance claims in your child’s name.
- Safeguard your child’s Social Security number and share only when absolutely necessary. Much like sharing your own number, don’t provide the information simply because it’s requested on a form or part of a standard process. When asked for the number, inquire whether another type of identification can be used instead.
- Be careful on social media about sharing the kind of information that could be used for child identity theft, such as your child’s birthdate, age, school name or middle name. Think about what kind of data is necessary for opening a credit card or bank account to understand what thieves are seeking.
Developing greater awareness about child identity theft and putting strategies like ChildWatch in place can be crucial for spotting suspicious activity right away — and minimizing the possible damage. For more security and privacy tips that can help prevent identity theft in your family, check out our article on child identity theft.
Image courtesy of Flickr user guilherme jofili.