by Nikki Ducas
Maybe I am too trusting or a bit naïve, but I was startled to learn that my identity could be stolen by answering an online survey on social media or by using a free Wi-Fi hot spot. What was more unnerving is that thieves prey on children’s personally identifiable information (PII) as well.
When someone uses a child’s personal or financial information to make a purchase, obtain benefits, file taxes or commit fraud that is defined as child identity theft. If an identity thief steals your child’s identity, your child may not discover the crime for years. Most won’t learn their identity was stolen until they apply for a job or a credit card.
Since children are accessing technology earlier in life, so are thieves. For this reason, it is more important than ever to educate children on what PII they should not be sharing with others. Fellow mother on a mission Sheria Waters, IT project manager, shared these top-of-mind ideas for parents to help keep children’s PII safe.
- Monitor school, camp and other programs that request PII and ask how the information will be used. Check the school’s policy. Also, secure identification cards schools send home.
- Do not associate your child’s name and full birth date when picking up prescriptions at the pharmacy.
- Do not use your child’s information to sign-in or set-up accounts (e.g., Facebook, utility bill or credit card).
- Do not use your child’s full name when posting pictures to social media.
- Occasionally, run a credit check on your child’s social security number.
Parents, before allowing your tween (9-12 year olds) access to an Internet connected device, monitor their online presence and explain the dangers of sharing their personal information.
- All PII needs to be shared over a secured network (i.e., Look for https://)
- Make passwords 8 to 12 characters long with capital letters and special characters even on tablets, computers and gaming consoles.
- Do not share birth date, age, home address, or full name with others while gaming. You never know who is listening.
With all this, parents need to be aware of their children’s online presence and continuously monitor their social security numbers. Even teens (13-17 year olds) should have additional social media training and be monitored.
If you suspect your child’s identity has been compromised, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information page about Child Identity Theft at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0040-child-identity-theft.