Thursday, July 18, 2024

Child Identity Theft: All You Need To Know To Avoid This Nightmare

We’ve all heard of identity fraud, but did you know close to 1 million US children had their identities stolen in 2022?

Preying on the naivety and trust of children, scammers can easily steal names, email addresses, Social Security Numbers (SSNs), and much more. 

Sickening, right? The last thing you want to hear on the phone is a debt collector looking for your child…

Today, we’re going to cover the obvious signs of child identity theft and how you can mitigate this disaster entirely.

The telltale signs of child identity theft

Your child has a credit score

By far the simplest way to spot child identity fraud is by checking their credit score via the three major US credit bureaus Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If your kid has a line of credit at all, a scammer is racking up bad credit under your child’s name.

Denial of bank account application

When your child applies for their first bank account, credit card, or student loan, instant rejection usually means identity fraud. This is due to a poor credit score that has been attributed to your child unlawfully.

Receiving debt collection notices or calls

At the very least, this should set off parental alarm bells — receiving any kind of bill or debt collection letter addressed to your child is a clear-cut sign of identity fraud. This is a sign that a criminal has gathered debt on your child’s behalf and then disappeared.

IRS letters claiming unpaid taxes

Scammers will often use stolen SSNs to apply for jobs, abuse your health insurance, apply for loans, or worse. Letters from the IRS to your child claiming any kind of unpaid tax means your child’s SSN has been leaked.

You can’t claim your child as a tax dependent

When tax return season rolls around, you might be shocked to receive word that you can’t claim your child as a dependent. This may be because a scammer has filed for taxes under your child’s name.

Junk mail addressed to your kid

Receiving junk mail addressed to your child? Most would disregard this as a common breach of privacy, but often it points to a stolen identity. This occurs when a fraudster signs up for pre-approved credit cards or other services with your child’s identity.

5 ways to mitigate child identity fraud

#1. Reinforce “stranger danger.”

2022 saw over 400 million people affected by data breaches worldwide. As the driving force behind identity theft, your strongest safeguards are data privacy and cybersecurity awareness. 

Reinforce lessons on data safety and the risks of oversharing on social media and video games. Even parents need to learn this lesson too, as they often overshare Personal Identifiable Information (PII) about their children all over social media.

#2. Secure all of your child’s devices

Cyber attacks are another common cause of child identity theft, as children are rarely given proper cybersecurity education. Start with simple animated videos to get their attention and slowly move on to other aspects.

A base layer of security like virus scanners and firewalls should be installed on all of your child’s devices. VPNs like Surfshark or ExpressVPN can also ensure that your child’s identity is always disguised while they browse.

#3. Place a freeze on their credit

For the extra-cautious parents out there, you may want to just put a freeze on their credit entirely. Children can’t apply for credit until they’re 18, so enabling a security freeze until then can protect their identity.

This will disallow any new applications for credit lines or reports. The process can be tedious and you’ll need to contact all three of the aforementioned credit bureaus. However, once applied, your child’s credit remains untouchable.

#4. Sign up for accounts on your child’s behalf

Nowadays, you can’t access any online service, video game, or social media without an account. Each account requires a seemingly endless stream of PII, which endangers your child’s identity in the wake of a data breach.

A simple trick that parents are taking to protect their children’s PII is using their data instead. When account creation calls for your kid’s details, replace them with your own to prevent the theft of your child’s identity.

#5. Keep everything up-to-date

Outdated operating systems, games, and apps can represent a very real threat. As software ages, hackers will find loopholes in the code, allowing them to infiltrate users’ devices.

Developers are swift to remedy these issues, so installing updates will prevent this issue. The problem is kids ignore update notices. Let them know just how important it is to stay up-to-date, and you’ll protect their data.

Safeguarding your children’s future…

As a parent, you only want a safe, nurturing online environment for your kids to grow and learn. Through vigilance and cybersecurity awareness, protecting your children from the horrors of identity theft is no problem.


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