It’s that time of year again. It doesn’t matter whether you are a parent who’s dreading summer’s end and your kiddos’ hiatus from school or one who has been counting down the days until you are able to usher them back into the classroom, everyone needs to protect their children’s personal and sensitive information.
This morning I read a blog written by Colleen Tressler at the Federal Trade Commission who shared some great tips for keeping your child’s personal information safe.
- Safeguard your child’s Social Security number
Don’t carry your kid’s Social Security card around with you and don’t share it unless you know and trust the other party. Personally, I take this a little further. Just because someone asks for your or your child’s Social Security number doesn’t mean they really need it. I know from experience many entities, if challenged, understand your reticence and will allow you to leave that information blank or only require you to supply the last 4 digits.
- Know your rights under FERPA
The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects the privacy of student records. FERPA requires schools to notify parents about their school directory policy. It gives you the right to opt out of sharing directory information with third parties.
- Limit what kids share online
Teach your youngsters not to post their name, address or full date of birth on social media. Take this further by being cognizant yourself and teaching your kids that many “games” you see on social media are actually phishing expeditions. I recently saw a post on Facebook that asked, ‘how many different maiden names (generations) can you come up with on your family tree?’ I was surprised how many people got sucked into playing and supplied a lengthy list. Were they having a fun social interaction or providing a scammer the answer(s) to a common security question?
- Use Strong passwords on smartphones, tablets or laptops
Teach the importance of changing passwords and not sharing them. There is a great site we use here and at home https://howsecureismypassword.net/ . Type in your password and it tells you how long it would take a computer to crack it.
- Use a shredder
- Check whether your child has a credit report before they turn 16
If there is one—and it has errors due to fraud or misuse—you’ll have to correct it before your child applies for a job, seeks a loan for tuition or a car.
I know some of you are rolling your eyes and wondering if all of this is really necessary. But here’s the thing, according to the 2018 Child Identity Fraud Studyconducted by Javelin Strategy & Research more than 1 million children were victims of identity theft or fraud in 2017; resulting in $2.6 billion of total losses and $540 million in out-of-pocket costs to families!
If that’s not bad enough, I read in a cnbc.com article, “Identity theft isn’t just an adult problem. Kids are victims too” by Kelli B Grant that thieves are more likely to exploit kids’ information. Among the 58 percent of people notified of last year’s data breaches who became victims of fraud, 39 percent were minors and 19 percent were adults.
Synthetic identity theft, a type of identity fraud that creates new identities using a combination of real (Social Security number) and fictitious (name and birth date) information is also wreaking havoc for kids and their parents. Some fraudsters have even built identities around SSNs that haven’t even been assigned yet. Can you imagine if you found out the Social Security number issued to your baby had earnings already associated with it along with a five-year credit history? Scary, right?!
According to the Child Identity Fraud study 66 percent of kids victimized by identity theft (or fraud) are 7 years old or younger. And while it might seem like a no-brainer that your kindergartner wasn’t responsible for the thousands of dollars’ worth of credit card debt assigned to them, experts say getting to the bottom of identity theft and fraud is just as complicated for kids as it is for adults. The same hoops need to be jumped through.
The fact that 60 percent of child identity theft or fraud victims personally know the perpetrator complicates things even further. The same is not true for adults; only 7 percent know their thief personally.
I know, it’s not as if parents don’t already have enough to deal with keeping their kids safe, but child identity theft is a growing issue. We need to be as vigilant about protecting their identities as we’ve become protecting our own.
A. Alliance Collection Agency, Inc. is a full service, licensed accounts receivable management and debt collection agency providing highly effective, customized one on one management and recovery solutions for our business partners. Founded in northern Illinois in 2005, we have been proudly improving the bottom-line on behalf of our business partners in and around Chicagoland for over 13 years.