How Can You Prevent Child Identity Theft?

| March 8, 2012 More

In my last blog entry, I shared my family’s child identity theft scare. But how can we prevent child identity theft in the first place? If your child’s social security number is stolen, you may not know about it for years. By then, the damage to his or her credit is done, and your child may be denied credit, a job, or student loans. Here are a few tips on protecting your children’s identity:

  1. Keep prying eyes away. Is your Facebook profile public? If so, that adorable picture you post of little Johnny on his first birthday may be seen by people all over the world who are strangers to you. Those strangers now know your child’s name and birth date. While it’s certainly not foolproof, restricting access to your friends and family can go a long way in protecting your children. Never post your address on a social networking site.
  2. Vaccinate your computer. Use of antivirus and anti-spyware software along with strong firewall settings may prevent strangers from accessing private information on your computer.
  3. Don’t fill in the blank. We receive plenty of requests for our children’s social security numbers – schools, doctors, camps, you name it. You should always ask why an organization needs to have that number and whether an alternative identification number can be used. Many school districts in the United States are moving away from using students’ social security numbers as IDs, opting for other systems instead. When filling out a form for your child that requests his or her social security number, leave it blank if possible. You can always provide the number at a later date.
  4. Lock it up. Keep social security cards and birth certificates in a secure location. (This goes for parents too!)
  5. Shred it. Shred any papers that contain personal information about your family. A basic shredder can be purchased for under $25.
  6. Teach your children well. Explain to older children the importance of protecting their social security numbers, and monitor how much personal information they share on social networking sites.
  7. Ask for information. Send a request to each of the three credit bureaus every two years to see if a credit report exists for your child. (See my previous post for contact information.)

Residents of Utah can now register a child with TransUnion, recording a child’s name and social security number in a database that alerts creditors of potential fraud whenever a request for credit is received. The service is free at idtheft.utah.gov. Children registered in the database will have their credit flagged until their 17th birthday.

Maryland legislators are considering taking this a step further. As I mentioned in my last post, minors do not have credit reports unless something is wrong, so parents can’t simply “freeze” their children’s credit as they can do for their own reports. The proposed legislation would allow parents to create and then freeze a credit report for a minor child so that new credit lines cannot be opened.

Contacting the credit bureaus may seem like too much work. Busy parents may feel the effort isn’t worth it and will assume their children are protected. I urge you to carve out a few minutes to contact the credit bureaus now, so you can address any issues before they become a nightmare for your family in the future.

For more information on identity theft, visit www.ftc.gov.

Category: Accounting, Apex, Bookkeeping, Cary, Payroll, QuickBooks, Small Business, Uncategorized

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