What’s 9 digits in length, unique to your son or daughter and is often seen by thieves as “the key to the kingdom”?
It’s your child’s Social Security number. For kids and teens, identity theft strikes when a criminal uses the minor’s Social Security number to open a new account, such as a credit card, car loan or personal loan.
“There is a growing trend among identity thieves to steal the identities of children,” says Robert Siciliano, an identity theft expert. Since the credit of children is not usually monitored, thieves see their records as a clean slate.
Further complicating the problem is the fact that ID theft for kids and teens can go undetected for years.
“Often, the 1st time victims discover that their identity was stolen is when they engage in their 1st financial transaction and try to establish credit,” Siciliano says.
They might try to buy a cellphone, qualify for a student loan or rent an apartment, only to find their credit is in poor standing, or that they have piles of debt in their name.
To protect youths, keep their Social Security numbers in a safe place at home. Also, talk to your son or daughter about the importance of not sharing personal information with others.
Make sure mobile phones in the family are password-protected, and keep all devices updated with the latest operating system and security measures. Share Social Security numbers only when necessary.
Be aware that the threat of ID theft may lurk nearby. “Children and teens are especially vulnerable to ‘friendly’ theft — the type of ID theft which occurs when someone you know is the perpetrator of the theft,” says Michelle Black, president of Hope 4 USA, a credit education program in South Carolina.
If you suspect your child is a victim of ID theft, Black says to take these 4 steps: