5 Insider Secrets for Protecting Your Child’s Identity

By Michelle Finneran Dennedy

1. Be Aware. The data doesn’t lie: Children’s identities are stolen over 50 times as often as those of adults! As parents, we work so hard to protect their children from germs and predators, not knowing that the insidious threat of child identity theft may be the fastest-growing and least-well-known crime in history.  These next-gen predators, identity thieves, are out there using children’s identities to open credit accounts, buy real estate, access healthcare services and escape their criminal histories.  And, as a result, the victimized children may lose out on jobs and internships, student loans and other opportunities that require a clean background check – before they ever step out into the real world.

Knowing the problem exists is a prerequisite to protection your own kids. And if you really want to put child identity thieves out of business, spread the word and alert your school and parents’ groups to the problem, too!

2. Teach your Children Well. In this highly digital era, it’s our responsibility as parents to teach our children about what it means to live in the Information Age, including how to responsibly share and manage their own information online, and to clearly outline the boundaries that mark information that is private.  Technology can be our kids’ best friend – but it can also be their worst enemy.

Parent – and I mean that as a verb! – by sitting your kids down to have an age-appropriate conversation about what is, and what isn’t, okay to reveal online.  Talk to your kids about the 3 C’s:

  • Cyber Security – protecting our devices and networks, as with passwords;
  • Cyber Safety  — protecting our information when we’re sharing and communicating with other people online; and
  • Cyber Ethics – the digital Golden Rule, to treat others and their information as we would like to be treated ourselves.

(And while you’re at it, it wouldn’t hurt to throw in a talk about financial responsibility.  It doesn’t start with a ‘C,’ but it does help kids understand the importance of the 3 C’s to know why it’s important to have a clean credit history and a strong personal brand, so to speak.)

3. Actively monitor your children’s information for signs of theft. AllClearID will monitor your child’s identity – for free! – and alert you directly if it is being used to apply for credit or anything else.  However, you should also be monitoring your own credit bureau reports, via AllClearID and at AnnualCreditReport.com, for mentions of your children is key – children under the age of 18 are not to be mentioned in credit bureau reports, by law.  If your children are mentioned in your own credit reports – this is a red flag that someone might have been using their identities for evil.

Some other red flags that your child’s identity may have been breached include:

  • receiving pre-approved credit offers in the mail in your kid’s name,
  • receiving collections phone calls from creditors for your child, and
  • learning that your child’s classmates or friends have recently been hit – caches of children’s identities are the identity thieves’ Holy Grail!

Don’t brush these things off, or assume that collection calls for your children are a mistake! If you see any of these red flags, contact all three credit bureaus or use a service like AllClearID.

4. Devalue your kids’ identity to the bad guys. Child identity thieves make their money by using and reusing, selling and reselling, the same child’s identity information over and over. Usually, they get away with it for years, because no one’s really even looking for credit reports or other indicators of foul play until the child is at least 18 or starts applying for jobs and credit!  But a watched identity target is much less valuable, because it cannot be sold and resold.

If parents, en masse, begin proactively monitoring their kids’ identities and stopping fraud immediately when we find it, the value of all children’s identity to the bad guys will plummet.  Now, that’s an exciting possibility!

5. Don’t let your child’s identity become a “family problem.” It’s not unusual for even caring parents desperate to get ahead to tap into their child’s credit or medical records.  Never do this – it only ever results in damage and shame, and can even result in criminal prosecution.

In the same vein, child identity thieves aren’t always anonymous Internet bogeymen.  Take care to protect sensitive data from casual visitors or other family friends who may be tempted to ‘borrow’ your child’s good name.

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Michelle Dennedy was America’s first Chief Privacy Officer, for Sun Microsystems. When Michelle’s own daughter’s identity was attacked, she vowed that she would never let it happen again. Michelle is now the Editor-in-Chief of The Identity Project, which is sponsored by AllClearID. AllClearID will monitor your child’s identity, notify you securely if it has been compromised, and repair and restore it – at no cost to you.

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