Q: I’ve heard the horror stories of a child’s identity being stolen, so what should I be doing to protect my children’s identities?
It’s easy to think that identity theft is only a problem for adults, but statistics from last year reveal that it’s twice as likely that a child’s ID is stolen over an adult’s.
Identity thieves prefer to steal a child’s ID because they know that it’s more likely to go undiscovered for years until the child is old enough to start applying for credit.
Proof of this can be found on dark web marketplaces selling stolen information that can be used for ID theft.
An adult’s stolen W-2 can be purchased for as little as $35, while an infant’s “fullz,” which includes the baby’s name, Social Security number, date of birth and even mother’s maiden name can fetch over $300, according to Terbium Labs.
A blank canvas
With an infant’s stolen ID, thieves have free reign to use it for a large variety of nefarious activities that range from applying for credit, to obtaining government benefits and healthcare, to filing fraudulent tax returns.
In some cases, your child’s Social Security number could be used to create a hybrid ID, which means that they are essentially inventing a person that doesn’t actually exist.
If you find yourself in that type of mess, it can become even more complicated to untangle the fraud and regain control of your child’s identity.
How your child’s info is compromised
From the moment your child has been assigned a Social Security number, it can become vulnerable to theft as it is being used in the normal course of life.
The most likely area of exposure will come from the medical world, as this is most likely the first place you’ll be asked to use their Social Security number.
Of the over 2,500 reported data breaches over the past three years, more than half of them (1,338) were from companies related to the medical field that included providers and insurance carriers.
Keeping tight control over any printed document with your child’s sensitive information is an obvious first step, along with making sure to shred anything you plan to discard.
When you are asked to provide your child’s Social Security number by anyone, make sure it’s actually a requirement.
Pay attention to your physical mail, especially junk mail: If your child’s name is listed as the recipient, it can be an early indication that someone is making use of your child’s identity.
In some cases, you can put a freeze on your child’s credit file, but make sure you keep the PIN that gets assigned to unfreeze the file in a really safe place that will get passed to your child in the event something happens to you.