It's no secret that I'm a little
paranoid protective of my son and his personal information. I don't even use his real name here on the blog for fear that it will put him at risk for child identity theft and undermine his ability to establish his own online identity in the future. I've been reading a new book lately, Bankrupt at Birth by Joe Mason, which outlines the risks and makes a compelling case for why and how parents need to protect their kids from child identity theft.
How Child Identity Theft Occurs
Child identity theft is rampant nowadays, and unfortunately it can affect even the most vigilant families. Data breaches are one of the top causes of child identity theft. One child's identity was recently stolen when his father signed up for health care at work. The office required the social security number of all insured family members…and then the file containing all of that information was compromised. Someone used one of the children's information to rack up $14,ooo worth of jewelry and cable TV charges! Another common way that child identity theft occurs is when parents share their child's social security number with an illegal immigrant. More shocking still is child identity theft committed by friends and relatives of the child. Parents have even been known to commit child identity theft against their own children for student loans and leases or credit cards, resulting in their children later being denied for car loans and home ownership.
Here are some steps that I'm taking to protect my son against child identity theft:
- Shredding documents. Old-fashioned dumpster diving is still a primary source of information for identity thieves.
- Minimizing exposure. I'm very strict about who has access to my son's personal information. To me, there is absolutely no reason why a church, preschool or after-school club would ever need his social security number.
- Data storage. We never put our personal information into a computer. All of our social security numbers, passport numbers, etc are kept under lock and key in a fireproof safe.
- Monitoring online accounts. My son isn't old enough to have a Facebook, Twitter or email account yet (thank God), but when he is his accounts will be safeguarded with a strong password and high privacy settings, and he will never be allowed to share personal information such as his date of birth or address. Chatting and messaging features will be monitored to ensure that he never gives out compromising information.
- Phone limitations. Another thing we haven't had to face yet with my son is vulnerabilities from smartphones. Most smartphones today come equipped with geotagging capabilities, meaning that social media posts from the phone can be set to automatically include location information. Photos are also “tagged” with location information and can pose a huge risk when shared online, even if social media settings are high. Parents should take steps to ensure that all location tagging services on their children's phones are disabled.
Get more information about child identity theft and claim a free Child Identity Theft Protection Kit from Identity Guard to see how your child could be at risk. Also, consider enrolling your child in Identity Guard® kID Sure℠ for constant monitoring of thousands of data sources to ensure that your child's information is safe. Because while you can take steps to prevent child identity theft, even the most vigilant of families can be exposed through data breaches that are completely out of their control.
This service and the book Bankrupt at Birth were provided to me for review at no charge. In addition I received monetary compensation. All opinions are my own.