Digital Age Parenting: Guarding Against Child Identity Theft

 It is amazing how much information parents share online about their children.

Little by little, a child’s personally identifiable information (PII) makes its way online to databases and some corners of the dark web. 

A data breach or a family member with malicious intent then uses this sensitive information, like their name, date of birth, and social security number, to steal the child’s identity. 

All they need to successfully pull off child identity theft is a naive parent who just didn’t know any better. With this information, they could have a home loan or credit card in their name that will likely go unnoticed for years.

Like Stealing Candy From A Baby

With more and more information being stored and shared online, identity theft has become so easy for hackers and scammers that it is the fastest-growing scam in the US.

Unfortunately, children are more vulnerable than adults because not only are parents sharing more information online, but they also don’t ever think of checking a child’s credit score or monitoring their SSNs. 

To a scammer, this makes child identity theft quick and easy—literally like stealing candy from a baby. Plus, their scams and illegal activities can go undetected for a long time since no one will ever think to check.

The Scary Reality

In fact, in 2022, the Javelin study found that 1 in 43 American children had some personal information exposed due to a data breach. 

This was done either through data or account hacking, phishing scams, or even the physical theft of documents from schools and companies. 

But what’s scarier is that in the same year, the majority of these children were under the age of 7 years.  

Then, of course, there’s the financial cost for the child’s parents. When a kid falls victim to identity fraud, the typical American family suffers losses of over $1,128

Looks Like An Innocent Update?

When parents post and share photos online about their child’s birthday, friends and family members may see a memorable photo of a child’s first day of school or a small celebration. 

But to a hacker, scammer, or identity thief, this is a golden opportunity to steal sensitive information about your child and misuse it. 

Unfortunately, in the majority of child identity theft cases, the perpetrators aren’t faceless strangers a child has never met. 

A recent study by Javelin found that 67% of child identity theft victims knew the offenders. Some of them had access to the child’s information that was shared by the parents. This is another reason to be vigilant when sharing your child’s information online.

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What Do Identity Thefts Do:

When scammers get access to your child’s personally identifiable information (PII), they misuse this information to steal their identity. 

They can then open credit card accounts, apply for government benefits, and even buy vehicles and file fraudulent tax returns on your child’s name and SSN.

While the Social Security Number is the most important information a hacker could want, even basic information like a child’s full name, address, and birthdate allows a hacker to create a synthetic identity and use it for illegal activities.

Protecting Your Child From Identity Theft 

This doesn’t mean you should stop using social media altogether. Protecting your child’s information means simply thinking about what you are sharing.  

  1. Before putting your child’s information into applications, websites, contests, or services, think again.
  2. Use only your email address rather than any other identifying information, wherever feasible.
  3. Avoid adding specific information like date of birth, full name, and address to baby registries, learning and gaming apps, and other websites.
  4. Monitor the information your child is sharing online.
  5. Make sure to check your privacy settings across all media channels.
  6. Enroll your family in an identity protection program.

How To Know If Your Child’s Identity Has Been Stolen

Do you suspect your child’s profile has been stolen? Here are some signs suggested by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that can help understand the situation better:

  1. You fail to get the benefits offered by the government for your child.
  2. Your child starts receiving offers for credit cards. 
  3. You start receiving bills with your child’s name.
  4. You get a notification from the IRS that your child has failed to file his income tax. 
  5. Your application for a student loan is rejected due to your child’s poor credit. 

Child identity fraud may be prevented and reduced with even a little effort, including freezing a child’s credit. Parents and caregivers can contact the fraud department at the company or bank and report the fraud. Most importantly, get in touch with the FTC at IdentityTheft.gov and report the crime.

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This article was produced by TPR Teaching.

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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