Protecting Your Kids and Family From Identity Theft
Of the more than 27 million known victims of identity theft in the U.S. alone, there are many who have never applied for a home mortgage, have never driven a car and have never made any purchases — either online or in a retail store. In fact, some of these victims aren't even old enough to talk.
According to the FTC, around 400,000 kids have their identities stolen every year, and because few kids actually use or check their credit reports or apply for credit, the crime may go undiscovered until it's too late.
Children — prime targets for identity thieves
In April 2005, ABC News told the story of Cooper Hayes, a 3-year-old boy whose very first piece of mail was a letter from a prosecutor informing him his identity had been stolen.
But perhaps the youngest victim of identity theft was a 3-week-old, whose stolen identity was used to purchase prescription drugs, leaving his parents to foot the bill.
Here are some other key reasons why identity thieves are prone to targeting kids:
- They don't think about credit or checking their credit reports.
- They have clean credit histories.
- They can be careless with personal information online.
- They can be gullible and easily fooled.
- The identity theft can go undetected for years, leaving plenty of time for a thief to make a leisurely escape.
So what can you do to protect your child from identity theft?
- Education is the key. Talk to your kids, let them know the dangers, and give them a set of security rules to minimize their vulnerability and thereby provide your family increased identity theft protection.
- College-age kids should be warned about the dangers of leaving personal financial information around their dorm or on their computer.
- Watch where your kids go and what they do online so they're not duped into revealing personal information that can be used in an identity theft.
- Think about using parental control software or services to monitor and manage what your kids do online. If you're looking to increase security for your kids on the Internet, anti-theft software like Cyber Patrol and NetNanny can cost around $40 each, as do most ISPs, including MSN, AOL, and Yahoo!, Each of these services offers some form of free parental controls and family safety products.
- Check your kids' credit reports often. If you don't, years may pass before they discover the crime. Some credit monitoring firms now offer affordable family plans that will monitor the credit reports of all family members.
- Make sure your kids' schools are not using Social Security numbers as student IDs. Even with the growing threat of identity theft, many schools still do.