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How to Protect Your Child From Identity Theft
Who should read this article:
Any parent with minor children who use the internet.
Identity theft is a huge problem worldwide. It is not limited to adults; children can also be robbed of their identities. It is much more difficult to catch someone using a child’s identity because the child is under 18 years old.
Think about it: how many kids do you know who use a credit card? How many young people under the age of 18 work on a regular payroll (where they are paid by check, not cash)? Not many, I’ll bet. How long do you think that person will be able to work or buy things using your child’s identity? Not long or not at all if you are vigilant from the start.
This article will give you tips to proactively protect your young child’s identity.
Proactively protect against ID theft:
1. I have often wondered about those family websites. Let’s take a fictional family: the Browns. On sites like these, you’ll often see pictures of all the kids, where they go to school, how old they are, etc. You can certainly share these things with other family members, but what possesses these people to put their family business online? Millions of Internet users can study sites like these just by typing “list family sites” into any search engine.
Tip: a family website is not an appropriate place to post any personal family information. It is very easy for an online predator to steal private information. Take any family site instantly.
2. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace have exploded in popularity. I have often seen profiles of people who also list every member of their family, their photos and other identifying information. These social media are extremely popular these days, so there are many predators who can study every profile. All they have to do is become a member and start searching!
Tip: keep your social media profiles as short as possible. Don’t post anything (including family pictures) that you wouldn’t want to use against you or your child.
Tip: whatever you do, don’t let your toddler have their own social media profile. If she insists, don’t let her post any pictures or any other information. She can even use an alias. Make sure you monitor her usage carefully (insist on having her username and password).
3. This one is interesting: you don’t need to provide your child’s school with his social security number. Apparently, many schools ask for it and you do NOT have to provide it. Wow, how easy it would be to capture hundreds of social networks at once. Can you see how many spotless credit records you would have? Think about how many of these SSNs can be used for work purposes.
Tip: don’t give your child’s school his social security number. The school can, if they wish, generate a nine-digit random number (for example) to represent your child. It should raise a red flag if they insist on it; in this case, consider another school for your youngster.
4. Does your child have a savings account? There is no need to give any of your child’s personal information to the bank. All you have to do is establish the account in your name. Your child’s name may appear as the owner of the account, but your name should also be there as the guardian. And if the bank needs an identification number and they insist on social security, give them yours. You can also take your business to another bank.
Tip: if your child has a bank account, set it up yourself and use your social security number if the bank insists.
5. Keep your child’s social security card (and yours too!) under lock and key in your house. Rather, keep all private information in a folder and store it in a fireproof box. Keep the safe hidden in a closet. Anyone who enters your house will most likely be looking for money or small items that they can easily fence off. They will not look for documents.
Tip: keep all of your youngster’s personal information in a file and put it in a fireproof safe that has a lock on it. Never keep any personal documentation in an unlocked drawer or on a shelf.
6. Many new internet users think that sending regular email is safe, their privacy is assured. Nothing could be further from the truth. Email is easy to capture and read. Most email users are not sophisticated enough to hack all their messages and have the receiver on the other end decode each message before reading. Many people use their email attachment to send pictures and other information about their children to other family members and friends.
Tip: do not use email attachments to send family photos and especially other identifying information about any family member. Online information is simply too easy to steal. So what can you do instead? Send any pictures via the post office or even better, UPS or Fedex. If you send the photos along with other things, it is very unlikely to be opened and resealed on the way. Think about it: the bad guy has to open the package, look around for identifying information he can use, and reseal the package. It’s too easy for him to get caught!
Tip: if you need to send personal information about your child, use registered or address/return/receipt mail. That is the safest way. Even your phone conversations can be monitored if someone wants to go to a LOT of trouble, but it is possible.
Tip: if your child has his own email account, make sure you know his username and
Password. Monitor his email yourself. Encourage your child to create an address book of their trusted friends and relatives. Then set up his email so that anything coming from other addresses is sent to the junk folder AND deleted immediately. Your son or daughter should never see any junk email.
Tip: be sure to investigate any new friends your child adds to their address book. If it’s someone he only knows online, you need to find out what you can about this person before any emailing happens. Again, monitor your child’s email, until reading any email before she does. You won’t be popular, but you’ll feel safer. Since your child is about 16 years old and seems to be trustworthy, you can relax those rules a bit.
7. When your child starts using the internet, it’s time to sit down and talk to him about identity theft predators online. Explain to your son or daughter how easy it is for someone to steal their identities. You will also need to try to help them understand why this is so important. When you start talking about “credit history” and “bad credit” and “ruined credit,” it can go over their heads. You might talk to them about someone working using their SSN, but they might not understand. That’s okay, keep talking until they get old enough to understand for themselves.
Tip: talk to your kids early on about the importance of keeping their identities private. Start when they start using the internet or at the latest around 13. Use parental controls on your child’s computer, and make these controls as strict as you want. You won’t be popular with your kids, but they’ll thank you later when they hear about their friends who had their identities stolen!
Tip: tell your child over and over again not to give out personal information in emails, especially to someone they’ve met online. Do not allow your young child to send pictures of themselves to people they have not met.
8. If you both work and need to hire caregivers for your children, don’t give these domestic workers more information than they need to know. There is no reason for a nanny or sitter to know your child’s social security number. Every child care provider should know where to take your child in a medical emergency, what time to pick him up or pick him up from school, what to feed him, etc. And that’s it.
Tip: if you need to hire a babysitter for your children, give them ONLY what they need to know to do their job effectively. No matter how long they work for you, they do NOT need to know any personal information about your child, including their social.
9. This is pretty obvious: use a combination of letters and numbers for any password. Also, make any user ID have the same matching combination of letters and numbers. So if your child has their own email or social media account, here are some quick tips for user ID and password aliases:
Tip: don’t use any part of your child’s name. No middle names, no confirmation names, no first initial/last name combinations. These are too easy to guess or find by accident.
Tip: don’t use any pet name, like the family dog. This is especially true if your child posts a picture of their dog and mentions that the dog’s name is “Sam.”
Tip: username or password should not be any word that can be found in the dictionary. There are many password guessing programs that simply go through the dictionary, trying various combinations of words.
Tip: make sure any username or password is at least 12 characters long. Many social media or email sites require at least six characters, but this is not enough. The longer the passcode, the harder it is to guess or dig with software.
Tip: let’s say your child is named Joseph David Williams.
Here’s an example of an easy-to-guess username and password combination:
Here is an example of a very difficult to guess username and password combination for the same Joseph David Williams:
Note the use of upper and lower case letters, special characters, and how all these can be combined into “words” that make no sense.
Tip: many sites will offer to remember at least the username. Don’t let them. Make your child type it every time. He will consider this a real “pain in the neck” and he is right, it is! But it’s better to take an extra minute or two and type in a hard-to-guess username/password than have someone steal their identity!
10. Don’t let your kids have any type of luxury or rich cell phone. Make sure his cell phone can’t do any of the following:
a. Take pictures
b. Has internet access
c. Allows text messaging
Tip: This one is easy. If you let your child have internet on his cell phone, then his internet usage is out of your control. Text messages can be very expensive. It’s something your child really doesn’t need. And there’s the whole privacy issue with cellphones that can take pictures. If you give your child a cell phone, it should be “no frills,” in other words, just a phone.
Most of the above is common sense, but it’s amazing how trustworthy people are online. They tell things about themselves that they would not tell members of their own family. They somehow think that what they say is private and that they are invulnerable. This is especially true of teenagers.
You will understand and agree with this article if you do it to lock your doors at night and when you are not at home. Why make it easy for someone to get in?
Do yourself and your children a great favor; do everything you can to protect their identities, especially if they use the internet. If your child gets a laptop at school, make sure the school restricts internet use.
One last thing: unfortunately, many people who steal children’s identities are other family members. You may need to consider not telling cousins, uncles, aunts, etc. any personal information about your child unless they are staying with them.
Don’t let anyone convince you that you are paranoid, better safe than sorry!
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