July 21, 2014

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What You Should Know About Identity Theft & Your Kids

The fourth Sunday of every July is Parents’ Day. President Clinton signed a resolution unanimously adopted by the U.S. Congress to dedicate one day a year for “recognizing, uplifting, and supporting the role of parents in the rearing of children.” I think this is such a great idea.

It reminded me of the many roles we parents play in our children’s lives. In today’s fast-paced digital age, life can be complicated and demanding for kids, and for parents––who have to teach them right from wrong, and protect and nurture them so they can grow into the best adults they can be.

Child Identity Theft Is On the Rise

It might sound strange, but one of the things you need to think about when it comes to raising your kids today is how to protect them from identity theft. Child identity theft is on the rise. Why? Because a child’s identity provides a “clean slate” for a criminal who can use the child’s social security number to open financial and credit card accounts. Thieves can rack up thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges and ruin your child’s credit without your knowledge.

Here’s how identity theft can happen to your kids and what you can do to keep them safe.

“Phishing.” If your child has one or more email addresses, that means they can become a victim of phishing. Teach your kids that they should never open an email from a sender they don’t recognize. Your children could unknowingly serve up their personal information to a cybercriminal who is posing as a trustworthy entity. Warn your children to be cautious, especially if the email includes a request for their password or username. Remind your kids to ask you before opening or answering any suspicious emails.

Don’t share social security numbers. It’s common practice for medical and dental offices, schools, and hospitals, to ask for social security numbers. It’s usually not necessary for these entities to have your child’s social security number, so always ask why they need, what it will be used for, and how it will be protected. It’s fine to say, “No, I’d rather not provide the social security number,” and leave it at that. Also, don’t carry your child’s social security cards with you––it’s better to keep them locked up in a secure location at home.

Keep private things private. Review privacy protection rules with your children. Teach them that they should never share personal information like their online passwords, their name, home address, telephone number, age, race, school name or location, or friends’ names. Explain to them that passwords should only be shared with parents.

Shopping safely. Teach your kids that they may only use a credit card online with your permission. You should monitor any online transactions and then be on the lookout for fraudulent charges on your monthly bill in case your kids don’t tell you about a purchase. There is never a bad time to teach your children to shop responsibly and manage their money wisely. You can also monitor your child’s credit report to make sure no one has opened a credit card account using his or her identity.

Social media safety. Practicing safe habits should start as soon as they are old enough to use social media. Make sure your kids set up their social media “feeds” and pages to be private and viewable by close friends and family only. Especially if they are posting or sharing photos. Also, tell them social media is not a place to share personally identifiable information like their age, school, home address, phone number, friends’ names, etc. Teach them not to put any photos or personal information out there that they wouldn’t want shared with strangers. Even sites like Snapchat can be hacked. (We’ll be talking more about social media safety in our next blog post, so check back next week.)

Secure their devices. Make sure your kids’ devices are kept secure by “locking” them with a personal code. Since you are teaching your kids good safety habits, they should be learning to take care of themselves and their safety online, but just in case, you should also have their codes. You can trust your kids, but you should also be prepared to intervene if something goes awry. In teaching online safety basics, emphasize to your children never to share passwords or safety codes with others. They should also get in the habit of installing the latest operating system and software updates as soon as they are available.

Keep Your Family Safe from Identity Theft

At least once a year, be sure to review your child’s credit report to make sure no one has opened a credit card account using his or her identity.

To feel even safer, you can enroll today in IdentityForce’s UltraSecure with optional ChildWatch. With ChildWatch, we continuously monitor thousands of websites, chat rooms, and blogs to help keep your child’s identity and privacy safe from cybercriminals.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Ezzy Languzzi.

Judy Leary

President at IdentityForce
For Judy, identity theft protection is in her DNA—her dad started IdentityForce’s parent company in the 70s, and in the 80s, she and her brother came on board. She loves her dedicated team and how much they care about every member, partner, and supplier. In addition to protection against identity theft, Judy is passionate about travel (Aruba is her “happy place”!) and giving back. She volunteers for the Alzheimer’s Association, Mazie Mentoring Program, and Sunshine Golden Retriever Rescue. She’s also a proud mom to 2 grown daughters and 3 rescue dogs.

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