Your child’s personal information could be a target of identity thieves, and it might be years before you know if there is a problem.
That’s why you should start protecting that data at an early age.
Things such as a child’s Social Security number could be used by thieves to apply for loans, get a bank account or credit card, or even to apply for government benefits. So it’s important that you guard that information as closely as possible.
Where do you start?
- At home, be sure to keep things like Social Security cards or electronic records safe from theft or prying eyes. The same holds true of any financial account or medical information you might have in their name. Lock up or password-protect this data.
- Don’t carry a child’s birth certificate or Social Security card unless it’s absolutely necessary, so you can minimize the chances of those items being lost or stolen.
- Shred all documents that might contain personal information about your child before throwing it away, and that includes labels on prescription bottles. If you have their personal information on an electronic device, make sure it is password protected, and you wipe the device’s drive before giving or throwing it away.
- If you need to fill out forms for your child, such as at school or a medical office, ask if all the information is required and why it’s necessary. If there’s no reason a Social Security number is needed, leave that part of the form blank. Ask how their information will be used and how it will be protected.
- Stolen personal information can be used to commit fraud and you might not be aware of that until the child applies for a loan and it shows up on a credit report.
- The Federal Trade Commission recommends that you check to see if your child has a credit report about the time they turn 16. If there is one and there are problems, you should start working to correct those right away so they don’t cause issues when your child becomes an adult. You can check for a credit report for free at each of the three main credit-reporting bureaus by visiting annualcreditreport.com and following the instructions. If you suspect identity theft, file a report at identitytheft.gov.
Starting to protect a child’s personal information early can save them from big headaches later.