Identity theft is a real problem and, sadly, children are not exempt from having their identities stolen. Recently, Nancy Parker of eNannySource.com connected with Julie Myhre, who covers identity theft for NextAdvisor.com. Nancy graciously shared the text of their conversation for a guest post on Strong for Parenting Blog. Here is what they had to say.
eNannySource: How does identity theft happen?
Julie: Identity theft occurs when someone gets a hold of someone else’s personal information and poses as that person or uses that information to create their own fake identity. This information can be a full name, social security number or a bank account number. It’s usually easier for identity thieves to get information about an adult because adults have a lot of personal information about them; however, it is important to also remember that children can be victims of identity theft too. There are a lot of different ways that adults can be hacked; some of these include not having privacy settings on social media, clicking on phishing emails or pop-ups, losing a wallet, throwing away documents that contain personal information, and ATM or credit card skimming, among others.
For children, identity theft occurs a little differently. Child identity thieves are looking for their victim’s Social Security number. Since children don’t have any credit history, it makes it easier for thieves to use their Social Security number and a false birthday to open credit cards. The unfortunate part about this is that people who were victims of child identity theft don’t usually realize it until they are older and trying to apply for a credit card or loan. Thieves usually gather children’s personal information from sports team applications, school documents and any other documents that would have your child’s Social Security number on it.
eNannySource: How is it prevented?
Julie: There are a lot of different steps that you can take to prevent identity theft. One of the major ways to prevent identity theft is to sign up for an identity theft protection service. Most of these services monitor your personal information regularly and alert you if they notice any suspicious or possibly fraudulent activity. A good amount of these services also offer family plans, which will allow you to protect your whole family – including your children – from identity theft.
Some other options to prevent identity theft include shredding all documents that contain yours or your child’s personal information, checking your bank accounts and credit card statements regularly, monitoring your credit report and, lastly, knowing what you and your child post online. A lot of people don’t realize how much information they post about themselves and their family on social media. It’s fine if you want to include some personal information – such as your full name and photo – but make sure that you set your profile to private. Monitor what you and your child post on social media, and check the privacy settings regularly – at least monthly.
eNannySource: What basic things can parents teach children to avoid identity theft?
Julie: Parents should teach their children about identity theft in a similar manner that they teach them about strangers. If you think about it, it’s essentially very similar – someone you don’t know is trying to take something from you. Parents just need to teach their children that their personal information is private and they should not reveal any of it to people they don’t know. Children won’t understand the details of identity theft, so it’s important not to go into too many details. The bottom line is personal information should be kept personal, and it’s important that parents recognize that and teach it to their children.
eNannySource: What age do parents have to start worrying about identity theft?
Julie: Parents should begin to think about ways to protect their child from identity theft as soon as their child has a Social Security number.
eNannySource: Is it worth investing in some type of protection?
Julie: Yes, in most circumstances identity theft protection is worth the investment. The value of identity theft protection isn’t necessarily in the active personal information monitoring, because the reality is that people can do that part themselves. Instead, the value lies in the identity theft recovery that these services offer. In the instance that yours or your child’s identity is stolen while you’re signed up for an identity theft protection service, you are provided with all the information and tools you need to recover yours or your child’s good name. Identity theft protection services represent you when you’re dealing with the banks, credit bureaus and creditors. It lightens the load on the victim’s side and helps alleviate the nightmare of identity theft. The identity theft recovery assistance is a valuable tool to have if yours or your child’s identity is stolen.
eNannySource: What about the Internet? What are the top tips for parents of kids who use the Internet?
Julie: The most important tip that parents need to follow when their children use the Internet is to monitor what your child is doing and posting on the Internet. Have open communication with your child and make them aware that they shouldn’t be putting any personal information on the Internet – even if it’s your home address in a private message to a friend. Check in with your child and make sure these rules are being followed on all platforms, including the computer, cell phone and tablet. Check your child’s privacy settings on their phone and social media once a month to make sure the information they post on the Internet is set to private.
Julie Myhre is the Content Manager at NextAdvisor.com. You can review identity theft protection reviews and learn more about identity theft on the site.