I have spent some time over the past few weeks concentrating on steps individuals can take to protect their privacy and identity. But how do you protect your child’s identity?
In some ways, the same way you protect your own. But keep in mind that in many instances, if a child’s identity is stolen, it is very difficult to find out. It doesn’t matter to identity thieves whether an individual is an adult or a child. If they get enough personal information, including a Social Security number (SSN), they can wreak havoc on anyone.
Here are 10 basic tips to take into consideration to protect your child’s identity:
- Don’t give your child’s Social Security number to anyone unless it is required. Don’t give it to your pediatrician, to the day care center, to summer camp, or to the school (unless you are applying for aid or a loan). There is no reason why any of these entities need your child’s Social Security number. Just say no. And don’t carry your child’s SSN in your wallet (nor your own).
- If you can request restrictions, do so. For instance, if you open a custodial bank account for your child at your bank, the bank is required to send you a notice of how they will use your child’s personal information and who they will share it with under the Gramm–Leach-Bliley Act. Call the number on the notice and request restrictions on disclosure of your child’s personal information (including SSN) to the fullest extent you are able. There is really no reason why you should want your child’s personal information to be shared with all of the bank’s marketing firms.
- If your child’s personal information has been breached, such as in the recent data breaches of Anthem or Excellus, do the same thing you do for yourself. Sign up for any credit monitoring or fraud resolution products or services for your child. Be vigilant and suspicious if you get calls from credit card companies or collection agencies.
- Get a free copy of your child’s credit report to assure your child doesn’t have one. A credit report can be requested from each of the three credit bureau—Experian, Equifax or Transunion. If your child has a credit report (most children shouldn’t have one), contact one of the credit bureaus to correct any fraudulent information on the credit report.
- If your child has a credit report and shouldn’t have one, consider placing a fraud alert and/or credit freeze on your child’s accounts to ensure that no more accounts can be opened in your child’s name with his/her SSN while you resolve the identity theft.
- Be sure to check your child’s credit report before he/she gets an apartment, applies for a car loan or has to put down a deposit for utilities. It is better to have anything cleared up before it becomes an issue.
- Shred any and all documents that have your child’s personal information (including SSN) on it.
- Be educated and wary about the information you provide to your child’s school and request the school’s privacy and security policies, including the administrative, technical and physical safeguards the school takes to protect your child’s information. Most schools must comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which allows you the right to opt out of sharing certain information with others.
- Teach your children how to protect their information and their identity. Make it a priority so they are educated and aware of the risks the digital world poses to them and so they can protect themselves as they mature. This includes their online behavior, social media disclosures, information sharing through mobile apps and their smartphones. All of that information will follow them the rest of their lives. The pictures aren’t polaroids and can’t be destroyed and there is no “delete” button.