Identity theft isn’t going away anytime soon. Identity fraud victimized 6.64 percent of consumers in 2017 – approximately one out of every fifteen people. Three out of every ten Americans have experienced identity theft, which is double what the world average is.
Typically, we think of identity theft as being a problem among adults, but it can also affect children. Over 1 million children were victims of identity theft in the U.S. in 2017, costing families $540 million in out-of-pocket expenses, according to a report by Javelin Strategy and Research. What’s more alarming? Most of those targeted were younger than 7 years old.
Despite what may seem like an unfair situation to children, it’s true that children’s information can be compromised in data breaches, just as it does for adults. In reality, children face more risks and consequences than adults. In fact, fraud among minors amounted to 39 percent last year, compared with 19 percent among adults.
So while the above may be frightening statistics to learn about, the good news is that there are steps you can take as a parent or caregiver to ensure your child stays protected from identity theft. Let’s take a look at some guidelines and important tips you should consider practicing.
Why Are Children Being Victimized?
Perhaps you may be wondering why kids are targeted in the first place; after all, who could possibly target an innocent child? Criminals often target adults, but children are considered “blank slates,” meaning the thief can perpetrate more damage by opening new credit cards and racking up debts before anyone notices. Unlike children, adults may already have credit cards, or have incurred debt of their own. With that said, anyone seeking to empty your bank account will usually target adults instead of children.
Another surprising fact is that while it’s easier to visualize a stranger hacking a computer system or conducting online fraud secretly behind their desk, more often than not, children are targeted by individuals known to the family unfortunately. Child victims are 60% more likely than adults to know their perpetrator, according to Javelin Research.
What Steps Can You Take as Parents or Caregivers?
Be Extra Cautious with Personal Information
- Securing any confidential information or documents is crucial to protecting your child. Fraud involving known information often happens during a convenient moment when the individual acquired access to confidential information.
- Be careful not to overshare personal information. Schools, camps, and doctors’ offices sometimes require social security numbers. Ask to determine whether it is really necessary before providing it. As soon as that information is public, it can’t be changed.
- Never display sensitive information, like birth certificates or tax returns, and always password protect all electronic devices.
- Passwords for your devices should not be easy to guess.
Put Your Child’s Credit on Hold
- Depending on where you live, you may be able to freeze your child’s credit file so that no one can open new credit accounts under their name.
- For more information, contact credit reporting companies like Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion.
- It’s important you aren’t the only one who knows the password to lift the freeze. Trying to lift the freeze on the account would be a major hassle for all of those involved if anything happened to you.
Keep an Eye Out for Suspicious Activity
Be aware of anything unusual in your mailbox, as well as peculiar phone calls. If something looks peculiar and doesn’t sit well, chances are your gut is probably right.
Other red flags?
- When you receive spam mail with a child’s name on it
- Calls from collection agencies saying your child owes money
- Bills that are addressed to your child
Securely Shred All Confidential Files
For the protection of your child, be sure you are turning to a professional document shredding company, for reliable destruction. Any document that contains your child’s birth information or social security number, needs to be secured accordingly, following disposal. Failing to shred this information will leave your child extremely vulnerable to outside threats.
At Gator Shredding, we provide trustworthy document destruction services to residents throughout Ohio and West Virginia. Our convenient and affordable solution is the perfect service for maintaining information security, and most importantly for protecting your children from information theft.
Contact us today for more information!