Identity theft refers to unlawfully gaining to access to someone’s personal information and using it for one’s own benefits. Stealing someone’s social security number and gaining access to your banking information all fall under the identity theft. With the rise of data being stored online leads the online crime rate and children are the prime victims. The fact that children are mostly unaware of their data being stored, maintaining a database of such crimes is quite difficult. According to Federal Trade Commission, there are more than half a million cases of child identity theft every year. The Child Identity Fraud Report sponsored by Identity Theft Association Center (ITAC), 1 in 40 households has a child with his identity being stolen and compromised.
Why Do Identity Thieves Target Children?
On an average, there are half a million new cases of child identity thefts every year. There has been a sudden rise ever since the boom in online transactions plummeted in the last decade. Although adults have a fair share of being the victim, the thieves often prefer targeting the children owing to the low risks involved in duping them. The following reasons explain what prompts the criminals to target the children:
1) Children’s records are usually clean which make it lot easier for thieves to use their information for a variety of purposes which includes renting apartments, applying for certain government benefits, opening new credit and debit accounts and applying for loans. If parents don’t frequently check their children’s accounts, then the crime can go unnoticed for years.
2) There is a term called as ‘Runaway’ where the thief steals the credentials through child’s social security number and in a way runaway with the crime because the child cannot be deemed as a criminal or held responsible unless he turns 18. So, tracking the criminal in such cases becomes really difficult.
3) Identity thieves also use the children’s vital information in a term which is known as ‘ Synthetic Identity Theft’. In this type of theft, the thieves pair the social security number of one account with a different name to create a new fake account.
What Are the Warning Signs of Child Identity Theft?
The FTC lists out the warning signs that might signal the theft of your child’s identity.
1) Being turned by the government for certain benefits because the Social Security Number is already in use.
2) Being notified of the payment of bills that you did not use or order.
3) The child receives pre-approved credit card offers.
4) Getting an IRS notification that the child did not files their income tax return.
5) The credit report exists in the child’s name.
6) If the child’s school has experienced some data breach. The school database contains vital information and if an online attack by hackers occurs then huge risks to your child’s privacy can occur.
How to Protect Your Child from Identity Theft?
1) Provide limited information to schools about your child’s data. The Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) gives you the right as a parent to control the information you want to share with your child. This act gives the parent the right to authorize that what information about the child is being shared with which the third party
2) If the child has a credit report then you can freeze the credit to restrict the report accesses. The following 19 states have laws that allow their parents to freeze their children’s credit report: Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, New York, Arizona, Maryland, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa, Utah, Texas, Virginia, South Carolina, Oregon, Louisiana, and Oregon. More federal laws are being established to allow freezing reports in other states too.
3) You can alternatively also purchase online threat protection from credit bureaus such as Equifax, TransUnion, Experian, and Innovis. These not only monitor your credit activities but also keep an eye on suspicious activities on your account.
- The freeze is absolutely free and state requirements are not a matter of concern.
- Your child does not need to be a victim of online theft to get the freeze.
- Credit reports are only available in states that give permission and they do charge a fee to get the work done.
- The site gives allows the parents to check the credit file online
- Does not offer credit file unless the child is victimized or ordered by the law of the state.
- Offers a free copy of the child’s existing file and will freeze it if required.
- A small fee might be charged if the parents fail to provide proof of the identity being stolen.
- This credit bureau offers credit reports to parents of all the states.
4) Teach the child about the risks of sharing data online. Since the trend in transferring data is increasing these days, the risk of information being stolen is at an all-time high. Educate your child about using strong online passwords and securing the smartphones. Frequent monitoring should be done on child’s online activities. Further education should be provided on the use of security software on phones which prevent access to sensitive information from your child’s phone.
What to Do If Your Child Is a Victim of Identity Theft?
1) Once you discover that your child’s data has been stolen you should consider reporting it to the police. There is also an online form by TransUnion which notifies if the child’s information is at risk.
2) Once the form is submitted, you will receive information if the child’s credit file is available or not. If the credit file is unable then it signals that your child’s credentials are safe. If you do receive a credit file then you should immediately report it to the following bureaus- Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.
3) Further, a free credit report can also be requested from annualcreditreport.com if the child is above 14 years of age. Contact your law enforcement agencies and credit bureaus which will work towards securing back your child’s credentials.