Many parents don’t realize that scammers love to target children for identity theft, usually because they can get away with it for longer. In fact, over a million children were victims of identity theft in 2018, and fraud against children totaled $2.6 billion in 2017. Criminals can use your child’s Social Security Number (SSN) to gain multiple benefits, such as claim them as an independent, obtain tax refunds, open a line of credit, or apply for a job.
Freeze Your Child’s Credit
Credit bureaus maintain credit files on anyone with an SSN, including kids. One of the best ways to protect your child from identity theft is to freeze their credit by contacting the three major credit bureaus. Usually, they must be under 15 or 16, depending on local state laws.
After their credit is frozen, you can stay relaxed until they turn 18. Your child will need to remove the freeze in adulthood whenever they want to apply for a loan or a credit card. Once their business is complete, they can freeze the account again to stay protected.
Thieves Count on You to Not Check
Check your child’s credit file regularly. Each major credit bureau offers a free credit report every year. Access one every four months to stay on top of your kid’s credit without paying anything. You may need one or more of the following documents to get a copy of their credit report:
- Birth certificate
- Copy of SSN card or document
- Copy of your government-issued identification with an address, such as a driver’s license
- Proof that you’re the legal guardian
It’s typically easy to notice any suspicious activity on your child’s credit report because there shouldn’t be any activity at all.
If your child was turned down for government benefits because someone already deposited them in another account, or if you receive income tax demands in your child’s name, or see collection bills for your child, then take the following steps immediately:
- Contact companies where fraud may have occurred
- Clean up the family computer
- Rest all passwords
- File a report with the police
- File an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Protect Their Privacy
Start by subscribing to a reputable online privacy VPN service to protect your family’s security and privacy online. A VPN secures your Internet and encrypts your data, blocking cybercriminals. Avoid free VPNs as they’re also security risks.
In addition, use cutting-edge antivirus software from a reputable cybersecurity company that guards your computer 24/7 and protects your family from malware, suspicious emails, fraudulent websites, and phishing attacks.
After your computer is secure, train your children to protect their online privacy. Ask them to avoid clicking on untrustworthy links, visiting new websites, opening pop-ups, and oversharing on social media. You can also use parental control tools to finetune their access to the Internet.
It’s also not enough to teach your kids not to talk to strangers. A report from Javelin Strategy & Research suggests that six in 10 victims of child identity theft personally know the perpetrators. That’s why they should learn to guard their sensitive data from everyone, even people they know.