In Olivia McNamara’s freshman year at Vanderbilt University, she applied for her first credit card. She learned that her identity had apparently been stolen, and she was in debt $1.5 million. The crime dated back to when she was 9. Her SSN was stolen and used to set up 42 false identities and 42 credit-type accounts; all of them were then maxed out and in default. She had no warning.

Here are a couple more terrifyingly true tales of child ID theft:

  • An 11-year-old’s SSN was stolen and used to buy a car and a house. $132K in default.

  • An 8-year-old was told he owed almost $20K in defaulted loans.

Tweens and teenagers are especially vulnerable to ID theft because they generally have more access to the internet than younger children.

 

What steps can you take to minimize your kids’ exposure to ID theft?

  • Limit what you say about your family on social media sites.

  • Teach your kids (of all ages!) to never give out any personal information without your permission.

  • Regularly monitor and discuss your teens’ activity on social media sites.

  • Use separate Admin and User accounts on your home computers. Teenagers don’t need admin permissions!

  • Make sure you have a personal firewall installed on your home computers or networks.

  • Make sure your antivirus software is updated regularly.

  • Check your underage children’s credit periodically, and teach your teens and young adult children to do the same. It’s free!

  • Freeze your children’s credit. They won’t need it for a long time, and it will keep their credit from being ruined before they even get to build it.

 

Parents and Guardians: We all need to know and understand when it is necessary and appropriate to provide our own social security numbers, as well as those of our children. We should never hesitate to ask why it is needed. Protecting your own identity and that of your children is simply something only you can do through awareness, education and diligence.

 

Here are some additional resources to help protect your kids and teens from ID theft:

ID Theft Center: Teen Space 

Bank Rate: 4 Ways to Protect Teens from ID Theft    

Mesaaz.gov: ID Theft Teens    

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