How to protect a child from identity theft
Identity theft occurs when criminals steal personal information and use it for their own benefit. Of course, as the word “steal” implies this happens without the knowledge or permission of the owner. While identity theft is certainly not a new kind of crime, it has taken a new form in more recent years, especially with the rise of the digital age.
Identity theft, or identity fraud, can happen more easily today. The scary truth is that almost everyone has put a lot of sensitive, personal information online. For many, this is necessary when opening new accounts, creating new profiles, doing a little bit of shopping, or interacting with government and healthcare websites. However, users often don’t realise just how much personal information they’ve given out online over the years, including full names, addresses, social security and national insurance numbers, credit card numbers, medical information, and so on. Once one begins to understand how much personal information is available in the digital space, it can be mind-boggling to comprehend. And, yes, it is scary. Even though large corporations and big data companies take precautions to keep data safe from hackers and other prying eyes, they’re not invulnerable. In fact, data breaches are no rare occurrence – even the biggest data brokers in the world, like Facebook, have to deal with major leaks.
While the safety of adult users’ personal information is a concern, it would be a mistake to neglect the security of children’s personal information. Child identity theft is a growing and expensive problem, with more than a million children being victims of identity theft in 2017 alone. According to Javelin Strategy and Research, six in ten child victims personally knew the perpetrator.
Since this is such a concerning issue that only seems to be increasing, year after year, parents and carers need to start taking precautions to ensure that their children are protected against identity theft. Here are some key tips on how to do this.
Protect the credit score
Large databases are goldmines for hackers. Hackers who steal sensitive personal information of others to sell them or use them look for organisations like workplaces, insurance companies, healthcare facilities, and so on, to attack. In fact, the healthcare industry has been one of the prime targets for hackers in recent years.
Hackers steal sensitive information from the databases of a healthcare providers more often than patients might think, and it’s a startling reality. In one case, a family had received word from their health care provider to let them know that an entire hard drive had gone missing. The drive in question contained their child’s name, birthdate, address, and social security number. The implications of theft like this can be, and often are, disastrous for a child – or for any individual, for that matter.
Fortunately, there are methods available to protect a child’s identity in the digital world. First, it’s important to opt out of marketing lists after opening bank accounts and the like for young people. Simply put, marketing lists mean that the child’s information will change hands more often, increasing the risk of this information being stolen.
Scanning and preventative measures
Taking preventative measures is key, and that’s why it’s a great idea to create a file with the credit bureaus and freeze its credit until the account holder turns 18. If someone were to access it, having already stolen the child’s personal information, the parent would be automatically be notified.
For kids, starting out in the real world means that their digital safety and awareness need to be taken care of before they’re fully-fledged adults – yet another responsibility for parents, perhaps, but one that’s worth bearing for the wellbeing of your kids. When a child comes of age, it would be horrible for them to start their lives with bad credit before they can even begin to comprehend the implications of the term. Parents can demand free credit repair if an employer or health insurer, for example, has suffered a data breach. It’s possible to get a special child scan, or scan their names when they’re teens, from credit bureaus, allowing carers to view the status of children’s credit so there are no issues with college loans or scholarships later in their lives.
Protect devices and digital selves
In a single household today, there are multiple devices being used. Sometimes they’re just lying around, but they contain important information belonging to the kids in the home. It’s essential to take precautions to keep their information safe, both digitally and on paper.
Parents should supervise the use of devices and periodically update their security. This includes investing in protection software – antivirus, anti-spyware, anti-adware – for all the above, including smartphones, laptops and tablets. With triple protection software, families will be able to avoid malware attacks and decrease the risk of identity theft by half. Parents should also take care not to forget to update the software on all their kids’ devices, too, and ensure that they don’t skip these updates by swiping away the notifications. These software updates include important security patches from the developers to keep devices up to date with new and more sophisticated hacking techniques and malware.
An additional point that many parents neglect to take into consideration is that passwords should be strong – both their and their kids’. They should ensure that kids don’t use passwords that are easy to guess and don’t use the same password for numerous accounts. It’s also worth checking that kids change their passwords every six months to a year.
Keep sensitive information safe
It’s best to keep important papers and documents under lock and key – figuratively or literally, whichever is safer. All documents that include children’s personal information, like birth certificates and health forms, should be kept in a safe or on an encrypted flash drive or cloud-based server.
The editorial unit