Parents need specific preventive strategies and practical tips to protect their child's identity. These measures empower you to secure your children's future and minimize the risk of identity theft and all the potential problems that can cause.
Identity Theft Prevention for Parents: Tips to Protect Your Child’s Identity
This is the second in a multi-part series by SafeWise expert advisor Pete Canavan, “The Safety Sensei.” Pete's expert tips and practical advice help you learn how to safeguard children's personal information and protect their credit.
Tips to safeguard your child’s identity
One crucial step in preventing identity theft is to be vigilant about the personal information you share on behalf of your child. These practical tips help you limit the exposure of sensitive details, such as their Social Security number, date of birth, and home address. Only provide sensitive information to trusted sources when absolutely necessary.
- Use a shredder to dispose of any documents containing sensitive information rather than simply throwing them in the trash. This reduces the likelihood of someone finding and using that information maliciously. Shredders are like inexpensive insurance—they should be one additional step that you use to help keep sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands.
- Sign your children up for identity theft protection when you receive their social security number. This lets you protect and monitor their identity and credit.
- Buy your children's names as domain names so that someone else won't buy them and attempt to use them against them for any number of reasons. It only costs about $10/yr per name, and you don't have to do anything with it—yet it will be there a) if they want it in the future and b) to ensure that no one else can buy it.
Teach your kids about online safety
To further safeguard your child's identity, teaching them about the importance of online safety is essential. Educate them regarding the risks associated with sharing personal information online and instill a sense of caution when interacting on social media platforms or online gaming communities.
Tell children to think twice before filling out forms or opening accounts and to let you know if they are considering it. Ensure that they only do so if a) there is a real need (or desire, as in the case of an online gaming account, for example) or b) it is something that must be done, such as filling out online forms to play sports at school, as one example.
Reinforce the significance of strong and unique passwords using long phrases with a mixture of all character types. Have them use something like "I like ice cream," but mix it up to read something like "1L1K31C3cr3am!" so it's relatively easy to remember but difficult to hack. A password like this is well beyond the recommended minimum of eight characters, so it is basically uncrackable.
It's equally imperative to stress the importance of not clicking on suspicious links or downloading unknown emailed file attachments. The most common types of files sent as attachments that can contain viruses are ZIP and RAR (compressed files) and EXE files (programs).
Monitor your child's credit report
As mentioned above, be vigilant and regularly check and monitor your child's credit report as another effective preventive measure. While it may seem unusual to consider checking a child's credit report, it can be an invaluable tool for identifying suspicious or unauthorized activity.
Look for signs of new accounts or inquiries made in their name. If you notice anything unusual, contact the credit reporting bureaus immediately to rectify the situation. Children's credit reports should not show any activity when they're young—from birth until around 15 years of age. They can't apply for credit until they are at least 18, so anything before that age should be suspicious unless you know exactly what it was for. If you see something and don't know, find out more about it immediately.
I highly recommend placing a credit freeze on your child's credit files. This additional layer of protection makes it more challenging for identity thieves to open new accounts under your child's name. Freezing their credit helps prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing their credit history and minimizes identity theft risk. New accounts can't be opened if credit files can't be accessed. If you have alerts set up with credit monitoring agencies, you will get notified when there are attempts at checking your child's credit.
As parents, we are responsible for staying informed and proactive to protect our children from the dangers of identity theft. By following these preventive strategies and implementing our practical tips, you can create a strong defense against this increasingly prevalent crime.