While many consumers across the country are now very concerned about the effects that identity theft might have on their financial standing, new data shows that in many cases, they should keep a similarly close eye on their kids’ situation as well.
Researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University Cylab recently found that kids are at 51 times the risk of being targeted by identity thieves as adults, which can be particularly troubling for all involved, according to a report from the Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana. The reason identity theft attacks that target kids can be more problematic is that it can takes years or even decades for the victim to find out the crime has taken place.
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Kids, of course, aren’t supposed to have credit profiles, the report said. Those shouldn’t come until they have accounts in their own names, such as credit cards, auto loans, student financing, and so forth. But if they do, that’s likely a sign that a thief has gained access to and used their personal information – Social Security number, which is then attached to a different name and date of birth – for fraudulent identity theft purposes.
For this reason, parents should try to keep their kids’ personal information under tight wraps, the report said. Documents such as Social Security cards and birth certificates, for example, should be kept in a safe place, and sharing any data, even with sources they might otherwise trust, should be kept to a minimum. Parents with kids who are active online should also keep an eye on their Web use to ensure they’re not sharing too much personal data on social networking profiles or elsewhere.
It might also be helpful during this time to place a freeze on your child’s credit, or at least actively monitor it, which will either prevent thieves from being able to use a child’s Social Security number for this type of fraud, or at least alert the adults that something is amiss, the report said. Even if identity theft takes place in the latter case, it may be much easier to pursue the parties responsible and clear up the issue well in advance of a kid needing a clean credit profile for their own purposes.
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Of course, adults should also be similarly vigilant about their own financial situation so that they likewise are not hit with any sort of identity theft.
Image: San Jose Library, via Flickr