By Robert G. Yetman, Jr. Editor At Large
What you likely don’t consider is the possibility of your kids or grandkids becoming victims of ID theft. Why would they? They don’t really own anything, and they certainly don’t own the kinds of financial tools and assets…like credit cards and bank accounts…that are ripe for capture by nefarious people. Given that, you might be surprised to learn that children are over 50 times likelier to become victims of ID theft than adults, according to a Carnegie Mellon study.
What makes kids such big targets for identity thieves is that they do possess the one thing that remains the most sought-after possession for these criminals: Social Security numbers. With a Social Security number, an identity thief can file a false tax return, as well as establish credit…and the age of the person to whom the Social Security number really belongs makes no difference whatsoever in the ID thief’s ability to do those things.
So, what can be done? Credit monitoring services are of limited value, so the best way to help guard against ID theft is through the use of a credit freeze. This is where things get a little tricky, though; in most states, the credit reporting agencies…Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion…don’t create credit reports for minors, which means, in turn, there’s no way to freeze them. However, because of the growing problem of minor ID theft, an increasing number of states are passing laws that require the agencies to create credit reports which can then be frozen. 19 states have such laws, presently, and the list is expected to grow.
Other than credit report freezes, parents can help keep their kids safe from ID thieves by being good stewards of their sensitive information. This includes ensuring that school directories, youth sports information resources, and social media accounts do not reveal any more than is absolutely necessary (in the case of social media accounts, revealing nothing is maybe the best way to go).
It’s a shame that the way of the world these days means we have to remain on the lookout for those who would steal our kids’ identities. Nevertheless, it is a growing problem, and so one that we must take seriously and guard against, even as we do all we can to protect our own identities.
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