Young and Vulnerable: Why Children are Prime Targets for ID Theft (and What to Do About It)
Identity theft is often tied to adults finding out about their maxed-out credit card or bank accounts they never opened.
However, there's a growing and alarming identity threat that's not targeting adults. Cybercriminals are now setting their sights on children and their precious "blank slate" data. In 2017, more than 1.48% of minors (more than a million children) were victims of identity theft. This despicable crime has no age limits, as two-thirds of the affected kids were seven years old or younger.
The Life of PII
Young people under 18 are 35% to 51% more likely to have their identities stolen compared to adults. Why do cybercriminals value a child's personally identifiable information (PII) so much these days?
The answer is simple: targeted adults run the risk of having a low credit score. A low credit rating limits what a hacker can do to an adult's personal information, whereas a child's hold near limitless potential. Since kids don't have bank accounts yet and are non-existent on credit score databases, their PII is like a blank canvas for financial scams. Criminals can then use a child's mint Social Security number to open a new account and commit credit card fraud. This crime is called synthetic identity theft, and kids are the prime target.
Young people under 18 are 35% to 51% more likely to have their identities stolen...
The Repercussions of Child Identity Theft
Victims of child identity theft won't know their personal information has been compromised until it's too late. For instance, some people get a red flag when they apply for a credit card. Others receive a summons or letters from the IRS and banks despite being seven years old and not having a bank account yet. This type of cybercrime can take years to detect and give children all sorts of financial problems when they grow up.
It doesn't help that six in ten children who are victims of identity theft know the suspect personally. Also known as "familiar fraud," perpetrators are usually family friends, but some parents and relatives are also typical suspects. If your home gets bombarded with collection calls or warnings from the IRS, take it as a sign that criminals have your child's data (and probably yours, too). It's time to fight back and protect your identity by using the tips below.
Protecting Your Children
Experts warn that sifting through the lies of identity theft and fraud perpetrated against a minor is the same as that of an adult — all the more reason to prevent the crime from happening in the first place.
● Keep Important Documents Locked Away.
In familiar fraud cases, the suspect already knows the child and likely has access to his/her Social Security number and other PII. Lock up your family's sensitive financial and personal information in a safe to keep it away from prying eyes.
● Password Protect All Accounts and Devices.
Protect all your devices and online accounts with a unique and robust password. Never use the same password twice, and use a combination of upper and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols. Devices include computers, smartphones, IoT machines, and your WIFI router. Never store passwords on your device. Write them down on paper and keep it in your safe.
● Only Share Personal Data When Necessary.
Never share personal information like your child's Social Security number unless you have to. Always ask why a particular entity would need this data in the first place. Tell your children to do the same and monitor what information they store on their gadgets.
● Talk to Your Kids.
Have a discussion with your kids about online security and how they can protect their information. Teach them the best practices of creating passwords and not sharing their data with websites and other people. Talk about phishing attempts, scams, and identity theft and how to spot them.
● Monitor Red Flags and Freeze Your Child's Credit.
Watch out for red flags like letters from the IRS or calls from collection agencies saying your six-year-old has massive debts. Once these warning signs start appearing, freeze your kid's credit immediately.
With the world getting smaller because of the internet of things and social media, the threat of a hacker taking your child's identity is real. The financial gains of stealing from a child are too significant for them to pass up, no matter how sick the act is. Do whatever it takes to protect your kid’s identity because no child deserves to be a victim of any crime.
Daniel William is Content Director and a Freelance Cyber Security Consultant at IDStrong. His great passion is to maintain the safety of the organization's online systems and networks.
He knows that both individuals and businesses face the constant challenge of cyber threats. Identifying and preventing these attacks is a priority for Daniel.
Connect with Daniel at:
Website: https://idstrong.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/DanielWilliamC9 LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/daniel-william-carter-871b97198/