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  • Writer's pictureAndy Murphy

How to Protect Your Child’s Identity, Simplified


How to Protect Your Child’s Identity, Simplified

What you need to know about child identity theft and how to prevent it


As protector parents, we are concerned about the safety and well-being of our children. We make sure that when our kids are young there aren’t any choking hazards in their way. When they’re small we talk about not leaving with strangers. When they’re older we teach them to drive safely.


Those are all safety concerns that are either tangible or in our conscious. We can see those things and affect them for our kids. But an unseen danger that parents often overlook is child identity theft. I’ve you’ve never thought about this, I don’t blame you. By far you are not a bad parent.


I consider child identity theft to be an unseen danger because mostly the attack comes from someone online, who takes data that isn’t anywhere near your child and most likely doesn’t know you. So as a parent, how are you even supposed to know this is a thing?

Free Guide for how to freeze your child's credit
Let me make this clear. If your child has a social security number they are at risk of identity theft.

That means this potential threat starts with all of the paperwork you fill out at the hospital that’s associated with your child’s birth certificate. Most parents don’t ever think about this and it could ruin your child’s financial future and you may not even know about it for 17 or 18 years.


I don’t want you to find out there’s a problem with your child’s credit score when they go to apply for a car loan or apply for financial aid at college. But that’s when a lot of people get hit with bad news.


Why Identity Theft Matters for Our Children


Kids are a blank slate in a number of ways. To identity thieves, a lack of official information is a treasure trove of potential. Because there is not a lot of legal information about a young child in any record, that means the bad guys have a lot of leeway in creating their own fake identity with your child’s real identity.

With your child’s ID, a thief can open new lines of credit in your child’s name. That means they could: buy things with a credit card, open new credit cards, collect unemployment, receive social security benefits, open fake bank accounts, get a new mobile phone or even go as far as to open an electrical and gas account with your child’s information.

Also, personally identifiable information can be sold on the dark web. So, the thief that takes it may never use it. It may take a few months or a year to sell off. Then, it could be sold more than once and cause trouble at different times in your child’s life. Once that information is compromised, it is out there.

At this point, you might wonder if the credit reporting companies catch that a child’s information is being used to open a line of credit for an adult. Unfortunately, that is not as cut and dry as you think. The way it works is the social security number is validated separately from the other personally identifiable information in the process.

A scammer could use the identity of a 40-year-old man with the social security number of a 12-year-old girl. This may seem counterintuitive, but it’s the current process we all have to live with. And I don’t think it’s going to change anytime soon.

How Children’s IDs Are Stolen

One of the most significant leaks of a child’s personal information is the parents. Yes, it’s us – their protectors. We may inadvertently give away very valuable information about our children in person or online.

Have you ever seen those cute birth announcement pictures on social media? A small child is sleeping blissfully and the caption says, "Meet Ava Charlotte Riddle, born August 1st, 2023 in Sugar Land Texas".

Birth announcement giving away too much information

In one picture an unsuspecting, proud parent has given away a lot of personal data. Their child’s legal name, gender, date of birth, and place of birth have been shown to anyone on the internet. That’s a lot of identifiable information for a seasoned scammer.

Another way your child’s identity can be stolen is in a data breach. Data breaches are becoming more and more common in today’s world. Some breaches only divulge email addresses, passwords, or credit cards. But there was an epic data breach in South Carolina that compromised 6.4 million residents, including children.

In 2012, 3.6 million social security numbers were exposed along with other personal information in a breach that originated from a phishing attack at a state government office. In response, the state offered residents credit monitoring for two years as damage control.


The issue here is that social security numbers do not change. If criminals are patient enough to have waited until 2015, they could have tons of children’s information ready to go, past the free credit monitoring period. You might be thinking that it seems impossible to protect your child’s valuable data, but there are steps parents can take to shield their children’s information.


How to Protect Your Child’s Identity


The first thing we have to do to protect children is to take their personal information very seriously. Don’t share detailed birth announcements with valuable information. Also, keeping your child’s social security number secret is vital.


While government forms may require the number - if you don’t have to share it, then don’t. It’s okay for you to ask a daycare, online service, or whatever why the social security number is necessary. Then ask if it’s okay that you do not provide on the basis of protecting your child.


Freezing Your Child’s Credit


One of the best ways to protect your child from identity theft is to freeze their credit. You may think that since your young child does not have a credit score you don’t need to do anything about it. Freezing your child’s credit essentially locks it until your child is ready to use it.


The process is complicated and involves snail mailing a lot of personal information to the big three credit companies Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Generally, you’ll have to:

  • identify who you are

  • that you are the guardian of the child

  • provide your government ID

  • their birth certificate

  • few other documents

Then there are a few forms that have to be filled out and mailed in. And of course, the process is similar, but not the same for all three companies. Plus, you have to do this process for each of your children. It can get overwhelming, but it is worth it.


I have created for you a free step-by-step guide on how to freeze your child’s credit. This is based on what I did to successfully freeze my son’s credit. There are links to the information you’ll need and some tips I learned along the way. I’m happy to share this with you for free.

A free guide to freezing your child's credit

When your child is ready for their credit to be unfrozen, you’ll need to contact all three companies again to initiate that process. When you complete each freeze, the company will mail you a packet of information on how to open the account again. Keep this information in a safe place like a safe deposit box or fireproof safe.

It does seem like a lot of work, but consider this: would you rather do some work now or do a ton later after your child’s credit is ruined? It may take years to clear the residual effects of identity thieves.

Parents need to do their part in keeping their child’s social security number and other identifiable information private. Be protective and consider freezing your child’s credit now so they can have a strong financial future.


Watch Child Identity Theft: The Unseen Danger



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Andy Murphy

Andy Murphy founded The Secure Dad in 2016 with the aspiration to help families live safer, happier lives. What started as a personal blog about family safety has turned into an award-winning podcast, an Amazon best-selling book, and online courses. He focuses his efforts in the areas of home security, situational awareness, and online safety.

 

Andy is a husband and father. His interests include coaching youth basketball, hiking, and trying to figure out his 3D printer.

 

TheSecureDad.com

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