As you’ve prepared to send your child back to school this fall, you’ve likely been hit with a mountain of paperwork for class enrollment, youth sports, and other after-school activities. But as you share your child’s personal information with teachers and administrators, carefully consider how and why the information will be used in order to protect against identity theft.
Because children have a blank slate with no debt or credit history, their personal information is especially valuable to identity thieves.
According to the 2012 Child Identity Fraud Survey conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research and sponsored by the Identity Theft Assistance Center, one in 40 households with children under the age of 18 had at least one child whose personal information was compromised by identity theft.
Even though the number of reported child identity theft cases has increased significantly in recent years, more than 80 percent of parents with minor children say they are largely unfamiliar with child identity theft, according to a third-party study commissioned by Equifax.
- Before you start filling out forms for your child during the back-to-school rush, consider these nine identity theft protection tips:
- If you are asked to provide your child’s Social Security number, ask why the number is needed, if there is another way to identify your child, and how your child’s information will be protected.
- Only carry your child’s Social Security card, birth certificate, or passport when absolutely necessary.
- Do not provide your child’s Social Security number—or any part of it, like the last four digits—over the phone, online, or in person unless you have initiated the contact.
- Lock birth certificates and other documents with your child’s Social Security number in a secure location.
- Dispose of any trash containing your child’s personal information with a crosscut shredder. If old documents with sensitive information have piled up, consider attending a local shredding event, where residents can bring their documents to shred in bulk.
- Talk with your child about identity theft at the earliest possible opportunity, and create a safe environment with open dialogue so your child feels comfortable asking questions and sharing concerns.
- Never use your child’s Social Security number to open accounts for yourself. Opening an account with your child’s information and then not paying bills on time could prevent your child from getting credit cards, student loans, an apartment, or a job once he or she turns 18.
- Back-to-school time could also put you at risk of identity theft if you are sharing your own information. If your child’s school asks for your personally identifiable information as proof of residency, consider asking if the requirement is optional. You may also want to ask if it’s acceptable to provide a utility bill instead of tax information or mortgage documents, as these documents may contain sensitive personal details.
- Consider a credit monitoring and identity theft protection product that covers your entire family.
Child identity theft can be difficult to detect, and it may go undiscovered until your child goes to rent his or her first apartment or apply for student loans or a credit card. Because it can take years for a child’s identity to be restored once it has been compromised, it’s important to protect your children and family now. Remember to keep personal information safe during the hustle and bustle this fall.
Article Written By: Ilyce Glink