Child Identity Theft – Keep an Eye on Your Kids

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Photo courtesy of Paul Mayne – http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulm/

Kids love summer because school’s out, the weather’s hot, and there’s lots of time for skateboarding, swimming and hanging out with their buds. But for parents, it’s hard to keep track of where kids are, who they’re with, and if they’re safe.

Kids have fun. Parents grow a few more gray hairs.

In fact, The National Safe Kids Campaign estimates that 40% of all injury-related emergency room visits and 42% of all injury deaths happen during the summer months.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

Consider the following statistics from 2011:

289,473 Bike Injuries

Kids 19 and under who went to an emergency room for injuries from riding bikes.

83,006 Skateboard Injuries

Kids 19 and under who went to an emergency room for skateboard and skating related injuries.

5,714 Near Drownings

Kids 19 and under who went to an emergency room for injuries related to near‐drownings.

Well, That’s Not All You Have to Worry About

Those are some staggering numbers, right? Well, those aren’t the only numbers that should raise a few eyebrows when it comes to kid safety. Each year, the number of child identity thefts are more than all of those injury numbers combined!

Almost 500,000 Child Identity Theft Cases

According to a 2011 study done by Carnegie Mellon Cylab, nearly 500,000 identity theft cases are reported each year involving victims under the age of 18. In fact, kids are 51 times more likely than adults to become victims of identity theft and over 10% of them have had their Social Security number compromised–yikes!

What to do?

A few basic precautions will go a long way in making sure your child doesn’t end up a victim:

  • Teach your kids a bit about identity theft and help them use a little discretion when it comes to sharing things online – especially stuff like their date of birth, home address, social security number and other sensitive info. With social media use as rampant as it is, kids are going to need some reminders on how to keep some things private.
  • Keep critical papers with your child’s personal information at home in a safe place. If you have to get rid of them (the documents, that is…), shred ’em.
  • Keep your eyes open for mail in your child’s name. Pre-approved credit cards or other unsolicited financial offers might mean an ID thief has already targeted your child.
  • Be a privacy grouch. Avoid providing your child’s Social Security number on school, medical or insurance forms. Ask why they need it and what they’ll do with it.
  • Don’t ever use your child’s name to open utility or other credit accounts.

 

What More Can I Do to Protect My Kids?

  • The credit bureaus don’t want to issue credit to kids and your kids shouldn’t have a credit record. To confirm that, consider asking for a free manual search of your child’s credit report. A manual search will check for everything involving your child’s name and Social Security number and might help detect something fishy. The FTC has a good guide for doing this.
  • Break out the heavy artillery. More robust solutions, like Equifax’s Complete Family Plan offer monitoring services for two adults and up to four kids for a reasonable monthly fee. Sometimes peace of mind is worth the few extra bucks.

Already a Victim?

If your child has already been the victim of identity theft or if you just want a little more info, check out the Identity Theft Resource Center. This fact sheet, in particular, has lots of helpful measures to fix the situation before it gets too out of hand: ITRC Fact Sheet 120 – Identity Theft and Children

Stay Safe and Try to Enjoy Summer

Remember, you’re not the only one keeping an eye on your kids this summer–take a few extra measures to keep them safe. It may result in happier children and a few less gray hairs for you!

Author: Dave Nielsen

I started using computers in 1978 on the Apple II and was first online (using my “high-speed” 1200 baud modem) in 1989. I’ve managed web sites for several Fortune 500 companies and for internet start-ups. Working for one of those start-ups is what brought me into the world of credit. I was part of the the executive team that ran QSpace, the first company to offer credit reports over the internet.

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