Oct 10, 2023
Protect Your Children from Identity Theft
Protecting your personal identity has become increasingly important in recent years, as hackers, data breaches, email scams and digital fraud may end up exposing your most sensitive and confidential information to online users. However, what many families may not realize is that the parents’ account numbers and Social Security numbers are not the only ones at risk. Even children are susceptible, and the consequences can be significant.
Below are five handy tips to help safeguard your child’s identity from fraudulent activity.
1. Keep the child’s personal information safe.
Birth certificates, Social Security cards, passports and any other personally identifying materials should be locked in a secure location, either at home or in safety deposit box with access being granted only to those who need it (the fewer people, the better).
2. Monitor your mail.
It’s easy to throw your junk mail in the garbage after quickly scanning through the envelopes, but pay attention to any items such as pre-approved credit cards or correspondence from a collection agency with your child’s name on them. These may actually derive from false credit claims made in their name, and the risk of getting a bad credit score is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to potential financial damage.
3. Freeze your child’s credit.
Parents can freeze their children’s credit with any of the three credit agencies (Equifax, TransUnion or Experian). For children under age 16, guardians must mail in this request along with the required documentation. Be aware that you will need to keep track of the information that’s required to unfreeze your child’s credit when they are ready to open their own accounts.
4. Wipe things clean.
Many children (and adults) want the latest electronic devices, so maybe you’re looking to upgrade. If you or your child will be selling or discarding a computer, tablet or cellphone that currently stores the child’s name or any other personally identifiable information, be sure to wipe clean all such data first. You can search online to find out how to delete personal information from electronic devices, or you may wish to engage the services of a professional to do it for you.
5. Educate your child.
It’s never too early to teach your child the importance of privacy and keeping their personal information just that… personal. The level of detail will depend on their age, but it’s important for kids to know how to keep their identity safe, and why. It’s a fine line between awareness of fraudulent activity and being overly cautious, so watch your tone and approach, and reinforce that your child should be vigilant without being outright afraid.
While there are no concrete solutions to keeping personal information 100% safe, using these precautionary measures and staying alert to any potential warning signs can help thwart any possible fraud committed against your child.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sean Knoerzer, CFP®
Sean is a Wealth Manager at BDF and a member of the firm's Financial Professionals Practice Group. He enjoys providing solutions to unique financial circumstances and clarity on complex planning needs. Sean has also served on the firm's Financial Planning Committee. Sean earned a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and Consumer Economics with a concentration in Financial Planning at the University of Illinois.
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