Your child is turning 16! As a parent in the US, your mind is occupied with planning the big sweet 16 party and preparing for a new driver on the road (and the crazy high insurance that goes with it). During this exciting time, there’s something else you should be thinking about—your child’s credit score.
Child identity theft is more common than we want to think it is. According to a study by Identity Theft Assistance, 1 in every 40 households with minor children has been affected by child identity theft. Thieves love this kind of identity theft because 1) it gives them a clean slate because kids don’t have a credit history, and 2) it usually takes years before the crime is discovered—and it’s a lot of time to do some extensive damage. Many kids who have had their identities stolen don’t find out until they are adults trying to buy a car, apply for a college loan, or rent a place and they are denied due to low credit scores. At that point, it could take years to undo the damage and build a respectable credit score. No parent wants that for their child!
So when your child turns the big 16, start a new tradition and check to see if your child has a credit report. If your child does have a report, check to make sure there are not any mistakes on it and also check in why he or she would have a credit report (since most wouldn’t). You’ll not only save your child tons of headaches later on, but you’ll have a head start on clearing this up before it becomes a big mess.
But the best way to fix child identity theft is to prevent it in the first place. Here are a few tips to protect your child’s identity.
- Keep your child’s information in a private, safe place. Don’t carry your child’s Social Security card or identity card around with you and make sure their birth certificate is in a safe place, like a locked file cabinet, safe or safety deposit box.
- Only give out your child’s personal info when necessary. Be particular who you share your child’s Social Security number or identification number with, and when in doubt, leave it blank. The little league coordinator does NOT need to have this information, and even places that you may think may need it like your doctor’s office, you should check to be sure. Remember, once the information leaves your hands, it is out of your control.
- Shred any sensitive documents before discarding. Rule of thumb: if it has an identification number or any personal information on it, shred it.
- Be alert to robberies and security breaches. If your home has been broken into, make sure all documents are accounted for.
- Be careful what you and your child shares online. Make sure to teach your child the “rules of the road” for online safety and why sharing personal information online can be risky.
- Invest in security software. Use software like McAfee’s LiveSafe™ service to protect your data and identity as well as your child’s on all your computers, smartphones and tablets.
Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! Disclosures.