They bound into the world full of giggles and coos riding atop a clean, blank canvas. There’s not a smudge on them—physically or digitally. But how long does it take for a child to fall prey to a cyber crook?
Unfortunately, not long at all, hours even, thanks to some very unscrupulous people trolling for victims online. Identity thieves are increasingly using children’s social security numbers since this type of theft often goes undiscovered for long periods of time.
How do we even begin to protect our kids against the seedier side of the Internet that can knock down their credit score before they even learn to crawl?
First, this is no time to be timid. We decide to stand up for our kids’ privacy and commit to learning more and more about how we can personally protect our family online.
Second, we commit to living in the reality that everyone with a name and a social security number is prone to identity theft—yes, even our children. The channels of technology that connect us far too encompassing to circumvent. You are not special, you are a number and you can get identity jacked at any moment.
Third, we talk candidly to our kids about the fallout of online crime and how to protect privacy. In the same way we taught them about “stranger danger,” they need to understand the tricks and schemes of those who make a living exploiting personal information for financial gain.
Here are 3 ways to safeguard your child’s identity:
- Get rabid about privacy. If you don’t already, absolutely REFUSE to give out your child’s Social Security number or birth certificate to any organization or entity that is not a government entity (such as a school, DMV, or passport office). If you must give out a Social Security number, demand identification of the person taking the information, ask detailed questions on why the information is needed, who will have access to it, how the information will be stored and how it will be destroyed when it’s no longer needed. Keep a record of anyone who has your child’s Social Security number so that you can retrace steps if a violation occurs.
- File a fraud alert. By filing a fraud alert in your child’s name with the credit bureaus several times a year, you will be able to catch any credit fraud early. Since your child does not have any credit, anything that comes back will be illegal activity. The fraud alert will remain in place for only 90 days. When the time runs out, you’ll need to reactivate the alert. You can achieve the same thing by filing an earnings report from the Social Security Administration. The report will reveal any earnings acquired under your child’s social security number.
- Get security software. The best protection against child identity theft (or any identity theft) is comprehensive device security such as McAfee LiveSafe™ service. This is the easiest, most effective Lifehack when it comes to quick, efficient, total cyber security.
This is likely a new mindset but it’s critical to your child’s future. Taking these few steps and committing to an attitude of diligence can save your child (and you) countless hours and even years of credit or identity recovery should their private information get into the wrong hands. Identity theft can affect a job search, a mortgage rate, a car purchase, and sadly, even a victim’s self esteem for years to come.
Intel and McAfee, along with the National Cyber Security Alliance, are making it easy for users to participate in NCSAM with Digital Lifehacks. These lifehacks are providing simple tips to stay safe online and are encouraging sharing of this content by offering prizes like a Dell Ultrabook™ and McAfee LiveSafe™ for sharing this content! Learn more at www.mcafee.com/lifehacks . You can also join in the conversation on Twitter and online by using the hashtag #HackYourLife.