BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Identity thieves aren’t just targeting you anymore. They’re going after your kids.
Research shows ID theft will affect 25% of children before turning 18.
When is the last time you checked your credit? How about your children? In 2017, more than a million children were identity theft fraud victims. Two-thirds of those kids were under the age of 8, according to new research from the firm Javelin.
“It’s increasingly becoming a really big problem,” said Bart McDonough, a cyber security expert.
McDonough is the author of “Cyber Smart: 5 Habits to Protect Your Family, Money and Identity from Cyber Criminals.” Identity theft hits home for him. His youngest daughter fell victim to it.
“A fraudulent tax return was filed under her name and since then it’s been a real pain when we file taxes returns and try and claim her as a dependent. You feel violated. You know your child has been kind of in a way stolen from you,” McDonough said.
Clearing up identity theft can take months - or years. Here’s what you can do right now.
Check to see if you child has a credit report. We’re told kids under the age of 13 shouldn’t have a file at all.
“Get that credit report and then freeze their credit with the three credit bureaus. By the way, that the exact same advice I’d give to an adult as well,” McDonough said.
Another warning sign is your children receiving credit card offers or loans in the mail. That’s a big red flag.
McDonough says you need to also guard your child’s social security number. Just because they ask for it on a registration form at a doctor’s office doesn’t mean you have to write it down. McDonough says often times the last four digits will suffice.
Also, parents need to make sure their child’s federal student loan account is safe. A lot of personal information is on the form. McDonough says you should treat it like your banking ID and password.
“Make sure all your online accounts have different passwords. Don’t share passwords. I know that’s difficult. Use a password manager to kind of manage that for you. And in where possible, use multi-factor authentication,” McDonough said.
The credit reporting agency Experian says child identity theft will affect 25% of kids before turning 18. Of the 30,000 fraud cases reported each year, 17% were targeted at children.
McDonough say you also need to keep a check on your child’s social media accounts. Make sure your kids accounts are very restricted in terms of what personal information they share and to whom they share it with.
You can check to see if a credit report exists for your child here: https://www.experian.com/consumer-products/free-child-identity-theft-scan.html
You can learn more about Javelin’s child identity fraud study here.