How to protect your child’s identity

As we have mentioned before, identity theft is a serious problem, especially when it affects children. Identity thieves love preying on minors, simply because it usually takes longer before the theft is noticed.

A person’s identity represents a certain value. If it is stolen and abused, it can cause a lot of harm.

Stolen identities (even childrens’) can be abused to:

  • Apply for credit cards
  • Obtain loans
  • Seek benefits
  • Open bank accounts

In many cases, the consequences are only financial and there is a good chance you will be compensated if you can show the theft was not a consequence of negligence on your part. If your identity is used for criminal activities, it could be a lot worse. Suppose a criminal uses the bank account opened in your name as a money mule. A money mule is someone who is used to accepting money from scammers, keeping it in their account for a period of time, and then forwarding it on to a second account. Intentional money muling is a form of money laundering. Those found guilty can face imprisonment of up to 14 years.

The additional problem for children is that they typically don’t receive the bank statements, credit card bills, and other communications that would alert adults about suspicious financial activity. This is why child identity theft can go on for years before it is discovered.

And when it is discovered it’s often in a very annoying way. For example when the child’s first student loan application is denied.

You should never share a child’s Social Security Number (SSN) with anyone who doesn’t have a very good reason for having it. Even those that mean well can have their data stolen at some point. Sometimes we read advice stating that you can limit the consequences by only providing the last four digits of the SSN, but you should be aware that even the “last four” can be useful to identity thieves.

When your child gets their first phone, explain to them that caller-IDs can be spoofed. And if they receive a call from someone claiming to be from banks or other trusted institutions, have them answer that this person needs to call one of the parents and hang up.

Also tell your children not to give their email address to just anyone when they get their own, and have them ask permission before registering for an online contest or a service. Many spammers and phishers watch these groups or emailing lists to get new email addresses.

If a site or service is covered by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), it has to get your consent before collecting personal information from your child if they are under the age of 13, and it has to honor your choices about how that information is used. This is a reason why you should tell your kids never to lie about their ages when they’re signing up for new accounts. The age requirements are there to protect them from online harm.

Be aware that you are a role model. Don’t spy on your children, but openly follow their social media accounts. It’s a win-win that keeps you in the loop and it makes them a bit more conscious of what they post.

Still, even if you have been careful, an identity can be stolen. More often than not identities get stolen in data breaches. With most data breaches, cybercriminals want to steal names, email addresses, usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers. But most cybercriminals will steal any data that can be sold, used to breach other accounts, steal your identity, or make fraudulent purchases with.


You have every right to become anxious when your child starts receiving credit offers in the mail, or if you see unexpected activity on their email, phone or bank accounts. It may mean that their personal information has been compromised.

If you become aware of anything suspicious you can request a security freeze for your child at each of the three national credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax). When you request a security freeze, the bureau creates a credit report for your child and then locks it down, so that any lender who attempts to process an application that uses your child’s credentials will be denied access to their credit history. This prevents any loans or credit cards from being issued in the child’s name. When the child becomes an adult you’ll have to lift the freeze by contacting each credit bureau individually.

For more tips on how to protect your identity, or if you believe you are the victim of on identity crime, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center. You can speak to an advisor toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat on the company website

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