Prevent child identity theft

Understand what precautions and practices you can use to protect your child’s identity.

The following information is provided by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Child identity theft happens when someone uses a minor’s personal information to commit fraud. A thief may steal and use a child’s information to get a job, government benefits, medical care, utilities, car loans or a mortgage. Avoiding, discovering and undoing the damage resulting from the theft of a child’s identity can be a challenge.

Adults can monitor their own credit reports every few months to see if someone has misused their information, and order a fraud alert or freeze on their credit files to stymie further misuse. But most parents and guardians don’t expect their youngster to have a credit file, and as a result, rarely request a child’s credit report, let alone review it for accuracy. A thief who steals a child’s information may use it for many years before the crime is discovered. The victim may learn about the theft years later, when applying for a loan, apartment or job.

Keep your child’s personal information safe

Parents do a lot to protect their children from physical harm, from teaching them to look both ways before crossing the street, to making sure they’re dressed warmly for a snowy day. Protecting their personal information is important, too. Here’s how:

  • Keep all documents that show a child’s personal information safely locked up. What is personal information? At a minimum, it includes a child’s date of birth, Social Security number and birth certificate. Don’t carry your child’s Social Security card with you.
  • Share your child’s Social Security number only when you know and trust the other party. If someone asks for your child’s Social Security number, ask why they want it, how they’ll safeguard it, how long they’ll keep it and how they’ll dispose of it. If you’re not satisfied with the answers, don’t share the number. Ask to use another identifier.
  • Before you share personal information on the internet, make sure you have a secure connection. A secure website has a lock icon in the address bar and a URL that begins with “https.”
  • Use a computer with updated antivirus and firewall protection. Don’t send personal or financial information – your child’s or your own, for that matter – through an unsecured wireless connection in a public place.
  • If you use a password to sign into a website, log out of the site when you’re done on that site.
  • Limit the chances that your child’s information will be stolen or misused at school. Find out who has access to your child’s personal information and read the notices that schools are required to send explaining your rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). That law protects the privacy of student education records and gives you the right to opt out of the release of directory information to third parties, including other families.

The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them.

To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, visit the FTC website or call toll‑free, 1‑877‑FTC‑HELP (1‑877‑382‑4357); TTY: 1‑866‑653‑4261.

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