Protecting Your Identity

Your Kids Are Prime Targets for Identity Theft: What You Can Do to Protect Them

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Did you know that children are targeted 35 times more than adults as victims of identity theft? Kids are perfect targets for criminals because they have no credit history, and until they are at least teenagers they won't be doing things like applying for credit cards and loans or making big purchases that would raise red flags. It can take decades before child victims or the parent or guardian realize their identities have been stolen.

Social Security numbers: The golden ticket

The main piece of information thieves steal from kids? Social Security numbers. If they have this, they can spend decades using your child's identity to open credit accounts and create all sorts of problems for your child. The best way to protect this valuable piece of your child's identity is to do the same things you do to protect your own information.

Don't carry your child's Social Security card around with you. Keep it in your safe or safe-deposit box, along with any other records that include this piece of information on them.

Don't share Social Security numbers via email or text. If you are asked for it on a website or from organizations such as schools or doctors' offices, ask why the information is needed before giving it. Maybe you can give a less sensitive piece of information that will serve the same purpose of identifying your child.

See if your child has credit reports.The Federal Trade Commission recommends doing this near his or her 16th birthday. Contact the three credit reporting companies (Equifax®, Experian® and TransUnion®) and ask them to manually search for your child's name and Social Security number. If one exists, you will have more time to report the fraud and fix the damage before your child needs to start applying for school loans, credit cards, etc.

Online dangers

Teens spend an average of nine hours a day with digital technology, while "tweens" ages eight to twelve average six hours a day. This does not count the time they spend with technology in school. This means your children are most likely spending more time on digital devices than they are spending time with you or doing homework, sports or any other activity.

Depending on what information kids are sharing on those devices and social media sites, they could be increasing the risk of their identities being stolen. One report found that 63% of children have responded to online scams and 77% of kids have downloaded a virus. One in five teens share all of the following pieces of information online: full name, date of birth, name of school and email address. What teens may not understand when they put this information out on social media is that this data provides a fairly complete identity for criminals to steal.

What to do to protect kids against identity theft

Sit down and review your child's privacy settings for their devices and accounts. Make sure their location services are turned off and they are not sharing personal data with applications. For social media sites like Facebook® and Instagram®, talk to them about keeping their accounts private and never accepting friend requests from people they don't know.

You may want to ask your kids for their passwords so that they realize privacy is never guaranteed. Or you might want to remind them that privacy is a privilege and trust them to act responsibly. Regardless of what you choose to do, remind them that they should never be sharing their passwords with anyone other than you or writing it down where other people could find it. The "no sharing" rule also applies to personally identifiable information such as their full name, address, phone number or birth date.

Set — and maintain — boundaries for what they can and cannot do on a device or post online. Establish ground rules about what is appropriate use. Consider declaring certain activities or events, such as family parties or gatherings "technology-free."

Consider purchasing ARAG Legal Protection Plus, a legal plan that includes not only identity protection services (such as credit monitoring and internet surveillance services) but also connects you with attorneys who can help you understand and assert your legal rights if your child is the victim of identity theft.

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