Parents of young children have running to-do lists of many things to keep up with. New parents worry about things like setting up their nest, choosing a doctor, finding daycare and staying on top of rapid growth and development. Later on, they’re setting up playdates, finding the right school, exploring their child’s hobbies, and so many other things that nurture their well-being. Fraud and identity protection probably doesn’t make the list for most parents. Sad to say, in this day and age of rampant fraud it really has to be.
According to a study by Javelin Strategy & Research, one million children had their identities stolen in 2017. Fraudsters cashed in a whopping $2.6 billion from child identity theft alone. These crimes left families with a collective bill of $540 million. That’s a hefty price for something not in the plan for childhood expenses. Fraud against children is a growing enterprise and it falls on parents to protect their little ones from this awful epidemic.
The idea that stealing a child’s identity is profitable might sound strange to some. It’s not like the average child has a ton of cash sitting in the bank. But the truth is, children are now more likely than adults to be victims of identity theft for one simple reason: a blank financial history. A child’s blank financial history gives criminals ample time to rack up debt without being noticed. Sometimes children don’t discover the fraud until their late teens when they’re ready to apply for their own lines of credit. Surprise rejection notices reveal that their credit has been ruined. But how is this happening? Where do these fraudsters get children’s information?
Unfortunately, there are many unsuspecting ways that a scammer can access your child’s data. For example, back-to-school is a time for parents to be especially on alert. During the start of the school year, parents provide a lot of information to schools, clubs, and other services. If parents find themselves in a situation where they need to provide sensitive information like SSNs, they should be prepared to ask further questions. Ask why the information is needed. Parents should also ask who will have access to the data and how it will be stored and managed. While most information for fraud crime comes from the victim, there are sneakier ways as well.
Such was the case for Gavin Karpinsky. The 5-year-old had his identity stolen after a hacker broke into the medical computer system at his doctor’s office. He ended up with 12 fraudulent bills. Another secretive way that criminals can steal this info is on the dark web. Brett Shannon Johnson, a reformed ID thief shared with NBC News that “fraudsters can buy a child’s SSN on the dark web” for as little as $2.
These frauds against our children show no indication of slowing down. According to Experian, “roughly 25 percent of children will become victims of identity fraud or theft before they turn 18.” Fortunately, there are three key tips that can help parents protect their kids from having their identities stolen.
1) Be careful with your child’s social security number.
Their SSN card should be locked away in a safe place and kept away from unauthorized family and friends. Unfortunately, “about 60 percent of child fraud victims personally know the perpetrator,” says the Javelin study. Be mindful of documents that have your child’s SSN on them. Use a crosscut shredder to destroy any documents you no longer need that contain this sensitive information.
2) Freeze your child’s credit.
As soon as your child has been issued a SSN, parents should not delay in freezing their credit. A credit freeze makes it impossible for thieves to open any accounts with your child’s personal data. As of September 2018, it is now completely free to freeze and unfreeze one’s credit across the three credit bureaus. This makes the process easier for parents than ever before. Nothing is 100% foolproof, but freezing your child’s credit is the most effective way to prevent ID theft. You can go to these websites to do it:
3) Enroll in a credit monitoring service.
If you froze your child’s credit, then he or she should be well protected against any ID theft. But for good measure, it wouldn’t hurt to monitor your child’s credit as well. A credit monitoring service provides alerts should anything strange pop up on your child’s credit.
While it might be alarming to know that your child’s identity could be stolen, it is reassuring to know that there are options to protect against that from happening. This is good news, so take it. Protect yourself and your family and save your child from becoming a future ID theft statistic.
This blog is sponsored by FP101.net
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