Identity theft online is a big concern for adults, but did you know that identity theft affects children too? According to Javelin, 1 in every 50 children are affected by identity theft, costing families over $1 billion yearly. Dealing with identity theft can be a long and complex process, which is why knowing how to prevent identity theft can save a lot of stress for families.
Are you doing all you can to protect your kids from identity theft? Take a look at our advice and stop identity theft from affecting your family.
Teach your children about online safety
Educating your children about online safety is one of the most valuable things you can do. The internet poses a lot of dangers for children, and teaching them about the dangers and what they can do to stay safe online, will not only help them now but in the future too.
There are a lot of amazing resources for parents to help them protect their children online. Some things you should teach your children include:
- How to set a strong password.
- How to lock down their privacy settings.
- How to keep their information private.
- What to do if they’re worried their information has been shared.
Arrange a security freeze
Children don’t have credit reports due to the fact they aren’t able to apply for loans or credit cards until they’re at least 16. But this doesn’t mean that someone can’t use their information to try and open credit accounts using their name and information, racking up debts without you or your child even realizing that it’s happened.
What you can do as a parent, however, is to arrange what’s known as a ‘security freeze’. By contacting the three major credit reference agencies, (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax), you can create a credit report for your child, and arrange for the agencies to freeze it. This will prevent any potential lenders from accessing their credit history and putting a stop to the credit application.
It’s easy to unfreeze your child’s credit report when they reach an age where they may need to make a credit application or if they’re planning on taking out a student loan.
Protect their information
It’s not just online information you need to be concerned about when it comes to your child’s identity - it’s their offline information too. Information such as your child’s Social Security number should be kept securely, such as in a safe, in addition to other important documents like passports and birth certificates. Keep on top of your documents and shred anything that’s no longer needed.
Monitor their mail
Junk mail can be a pain, but it can also be a sign of identity theft, especially if it’s addressed to your children. Keep an eye on any mail that comes through the door that’s addressed to them - if you’re seeing a lot of credit card offers and similar mail addressed to them, it could be a red flag.
If this happens, contact the credit bureaus to see if your child has a credit report. If you didn’t set it up, and it’s not frozen, it could be a sign that your child is a victim of identity theft.
Be wary of the information you share
People share their personal data online every day, and while some of these events could be innocent, such as signing up to claim a special offer, your information could easily end up in the wrong hands if you don’t read the terms and conditions.
When it comes to your children’s information, limit how much is shared as much as possible. Use your own details for any mailing lists or offers you sign up for, even if it’s something for them. If they have their own email account, keep an eye on the types of emails that come through to their inbox and their junk mail to help you spot anything suspicious. Report phishing and spam emails, and unsubscribe from any mailing lists you’d prefer they didn’t hear from.
Put rules in place for your child to follow
Monitoring your child’s internet use is important, but you can’t watch over their shoulder the entire time they’re online. There needs to be an element of trust that your child can use the internet without supervision, especially as they get older.
To help your child stay safe online while enjoying some independence, it will help to put some rules in place. From limiting their time online to making sure they share their passwords with you, you can set some rules that you can both agree on to help make their time online safer.
Think twice about what you share on social media
While it’s important to teach your children about what they shouldn’t share online, it’s also important to take precautions yourself. The information you put out online, such as your children’s names, birthdays and schools could be used to open different accounts, or to gather further information about them. Even something as innocent as your pet’s name could be used to recover a password or reset an account.
If you want to share special family moments and news with friends and family, you might want to limit who can see your profile. If your profile is open for anyone to see, always double-check what you’re posting to ensure you don’t overshare.
Identity theft is becoming more and more common, especially among younger age groups. Finding ways to protect your kids from identity theft is important, and there are steps you can take to give them the best protection online. Educate your children, take precautions and be careful what you share online. Some simple steps to protect your family could help keep your identities safe and stop fraudsters in their tracks.