You’ve seen TV commercials and print ads about identity theft, and the “victim” is always an adult. That’s not realistic. The actor-portrayal should be that of a child. Yes, a kid.

Children are 51 times more likely than adults to have their identity stolen, says research from Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab.

Crooks want kids’ Social Security numbers. And crooks like the fact that kids are debt-free. Wow, with no debt to the child’s name, the thief could easily open up a line of credit in that victim’s name and have a field day. Or, they can file a fraudulent income tax return.

The thief can then sit back and relax for many years because usually, the victim doesn’t learn something’s wrong until they’re 18 and applying for loans or a line of credit. By then, lots of damage has already been done.

Many thieves of children’s identity are family members. It’s easy for them to get their hands on the victim’s Social Security number and other data. Relatives coming and going in the victim’s house could make it too simple for someone to get ahold of private information if it’s not hidden and non-accessible.

How can we protect children’s identity from being stolen?

  • If you live in s state that offers a “credit freeze” then apply, right now. As of the writing: Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.
  • Consider opting out of providing schools with personal information about your child. This can be done due to FERPA: Family Educational Rights Privacy Act. FERPA gives parents the right to authorize how much of their child’s personal information they want shared with a third party.
  • If a school fails to alert parents to this on a yearly basis, the school is breaking the law.
  • The FERPA does not necessarily apply to extracurricular activities of the school. Parents should investigate these on an individual level to see how much private information might be shared. For instance, a child’s Social Security number absolutely does not have to be given just for them to be on a softball team, member of the band, chess club, this or that.
  • Identity theft protection on a family plan should be a consideration. Generally these services will watch for activity regarding your childs SSN and new lines of credit.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to discussing identity theft prevention.

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