When I first started blogging, the first thing that every member of an older generation said to me was "Why are you putting so much information about your children on the web?" Being a KNOW IT ALL (tail end) Gen-Xer, I just rolled my eyes at them... But 8 years later, many people whom I've never met know more about my kids than members of my own family, and I have gone back and asked myself if maybe I've shared too much.
While bloggers with older children start thinking along the lines of not wanting to embarrass their kids, the thing that I've never thought is the kind of very personal information I put out on a regular basis. Birthdays, pets' names, places we've been to - not just things that may lead to classroom taunting, but things that may lead to a more personal assault; Identity theft.
Kids are 50x more likely to have their identity stolen than adults.
A few months I was asked if I would be interested in being an ambassador for the company Identity Guard in regards specifically to their kIDsure program, which teaches parents how to make sure their kids are not at risk for identity theft. My first reaction was "What? Why would someone want to steal a kid's identity?" but upon more research I realized that kids have a shiny new Social Security number that's not actively being monitored... and I realized just why this is such a silent, and growing epidemic.
While young kids of today can't say this, I remember getting my social security card around the age of 15 - just before getting my first part-time job as a Holiday Gift Wrapper at a local toy store. "Back then" SS numbers were used mainly for tax purposes - if you were not paying taxes, you didn't need one. Now it's part of the paperwork all parents do before even leaving the hospital when their babies are born. It actually wasn't until the year 1990 that Congress mandated all children get assigned a SS number before they turn one. I remember wondering why a baby would need a SS number - but soon realized it was asked for regularly... and without thinking twice, I've given my kid's valuable number out.
There is tons of talk in the blogosphere on keeping your children safe on line from sexual predators, but we need to think a step past that and also be concerned about identity predators. In fact, since the explosion of social media, identity theft has not only become more widespread - but easier for the thieves. Since our kids are not actively applying for car loans or credit cards on a regular basis, sometimes we just don't realize their identity has been stolen until years later. Can you imagine your child applying for financial aid for college or their first personal phone plan to learn that they are over $100,000 in debt to bad loans for multiple credit cards and defaulted car loans? This happens. And it's scary.
So what can parents do about this?
The book Bankrupt at Birth, by Joe Mason, lists a few things to think about and be aware of when it comes to protecting your, and your kids identity.
- Keep an eye out for notices claiming that your child has been pre-approved for a credit card or loan. Don't discard it as a mistake, but call and make sure that no one has tried to get the approval using their SS number.
- When asked to give your child's SS number on forms at the dentist, doctor or for a sports program, ASK what they use it for. Follow-up with questions about measures they take to keep the information secure and flat out ask if there is another number you can provide instead. Because of HIPPA and privacy acts surrounding our medical records, we automatically assume information that we give our doctors is secure, but realize that medical offices don't always have high-end, hack-proof security and/or employees that go through extensive security screenings and background checks.
- Use hard to decipher passwords. I know they can be hard to remember - but don't use birth dates, dogs names or simple words for your passwords. Bankrupt at Birth recommends thinking of a sentence that you can remember, then make an acronym out of it. For example "Beth works at 8 on Mondays" can be a password of "BW@8oM" using letters, capitals and numbers to make it hard to be hacked.
- And lastly, keep an eye out for things that don't seem right. Did you know that a popular identity scam is the "jury duty" scam? Someone calls you, saying they are from the sheriff or the local "jury commissioner" saying that they are going to be issuing a warrant for your address for failure to respond to a jury duty summons. The majority of us immediately argue that they never got this summons, and that it must be a mistake, which leads the person on the other end to ask for information to help you prove your innocence. Information that would be needed in these cases - information like your birth date and Social Security number...
These are just a few actions to take to help protect yourself. While nothing is fullproof, taking simple actions now is better than having to try to fix the problem when it's discovered years later. If you are interested in learning more about these facts, and other ways to keep your family safe, I urge you to get a copy of Bankrupt a Birth at www.ismykidatrisk.com.
For more information on Child Identity Theft and prevention, Is My Kid At Risk is a great resource. Things you will find at the site include:
- Quick Start Guide to Child ID Theft: The consequences of child ID theft are staggering. Get all the facts you need to know.
- Risk Factors Worksheet: Review the Risk Factors to see where you can eliminate some risk for your kids.
- Bankrupt at Birth: eBook Excerpt: Get a glimpse into a new book whose authors are on a mission to end child identity theft.
- Child ID Theft Safety Tele-class: Author of the book, Bankrupt at Birth, teaches you about child identity theft and what you can do to help protect your kids.
- Free trial of Identity Guard®†: Get a FREE 30-Day trial of Identity Guard®
- Subscription to Child ID Theft News: Subscribe just by registering your email address
*disclaimer: This service and the book Bankrupt at Birth were provided to me for review at no charge. In addition I received monetary compensation. All opinions are my own.