If you put together a list of potential hazards your child has to navigate in 2022, it probably wouldn’t include “bad credit score.” But scammers have begun targeting children for identity theft for just this reason– because the credit files of minors are largely ignored and because of the excellent (for them) opportunity to commit fraud with a completely clean slate.
According to a report by Javelin Strategy & Research, 1 in 50 U.S. children (approximately 1.25 million children total) were victims of identity fraud in 2021, with an average loss of $1,100 per household. Fortunately, there are simple precautions you can take to help keep your child’s identity safe and protect their future credit score.
But first: why are children being targeted in the first place?
Children are at greater risk of identity theft for purely practical reasons. All that is needed to commit identity theft, after all, is a social security number combined with a few personal details like a birthdate, phone number or home address (many of which are visible on their parent’s social media profile). Moreover, children’s credit files aren’t monitored as closely as those of adults, so the odds of a scammer being detected are significantly lower and often don’t happen until years later– if at all.
Children’s personal information ( including their social security number) is often stored in school or doctor’s offices, which scammers may attempt to hack. Children may also be targeted on social media for phishing scams, as they are more likely to reveal personal information without realizing the potential consequences. Nearly 9 in 10 (89%) of U.S. households with Internet access have children who are active on social media, with 54% of households acknowledging that they do not restrict or monitor their children’s online activity, leaving them vulnerable to scammers.1
Safety Measures You Can Put in Place
- Be wary of giving away your child’s Social Security number. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), you should always ask four questions before disclosing your child’s SSN to a doctor, employer or teacher: 1.) Why do you need it? 2.) How will you protect it? 3.) Can you use a different identifier? and 4.) Can you use just the last four digits of the Social Security number instead? The answers to 1 and 2 can help you gauge whether you can avoid giving this information away at all, and the answers to 3 and 4 can help you safely navigate enrollment even if the SSN is allegedly required.
- Monitor your child on social media and online messaging platforms. While social media is a popular platform for children to connect outside of school, it’s important to have an ongoing dialogue about online safety. The FTC offers various resources to help parents keep kids safer online. Keep an eye on your child’s account(s) to make sure they aren’t disclosing details that don’t belong in the public domain – and talk to them about any missteps. Review their profile(s) to ensure that details like phone number, email address and home address aren’t listed. Be wary of seemingly innocuous details like a birthdate or hometown. These details (when combined with a child’s SSN) can be all a scammer needs to commit fraud using your child’s identity. Be especially vigilant in monitoring your child’s private/direct messages, as these also pose a risk from potential fraudsters.
- Pro Tip: If you want an extra set of eyes on your child’s information, AAA Identity Champion paid plans offer child identity theft monitoring.
- Monitor your child’s credit score. The easiest way to protect your child’s credit is to put a credit freeze on their file until they are 16 years old, which effectively stops scammers from opening fraudulent accounts in their name. Most children will not need to use their credit until they apply for a job or purchase a car, so the freeze shouldn’t negatively affect them in the meantime. While this action by itself doesn’t protect your child from every potential scam, it covers quite a few.
There are plenty of precautions you can take to lower the risk that your child will be the victim of identity theft, but it never hurts to have another advocate in your corner. AAA Identity Champion offers child identity monitoring, which helps identify if your child’s personal information has been leaked in a data breach or is for sale on illegal trading sites, as well as child identity theft insurance and internet & dark web monitoring. Choose the plan that best fits your family today.
1According to Javelin Strategy & Research, https://www.javelinstrategy.com/research/child-identity-fraud-web-deception-and-loss
2The Identity Theft Insurance is underwritten and administered by American Bankers Insurance Company of Florida, an Assurant company under group or blanket policy(ies). The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions. Review Summary of Benefits.