A friend recently enrolled her child in kindergarten and she told me she was shocked at the amount of documentation she had to bring to signup. She was told to bring a Social Security card or birth certificate, a bill to prove residency, medical records and preschool records. I wasn’t surprised, but I gave a warning to my friend. With more personal information floating around, you and your family are at a greater risk for identity theft and child identity theft.
Even though children are supposed to have a blank slate, the number of reported child identity theft cases in the U.S. has increased by 200 percent since 2003. And despite the growing trend of child ID theft, more than 80 percent of parents of minor children say they are unfamiliar with child identity theft.
Back-to-school time means you’ll be asked to fill out paperwork and share your children’s personal information with teachers and administrators, so it’s the perfect time to think about how to protect your family.
Identity theft protection tips for back-to-school season:
- Carry your child’s Social Security card, birth certificate or passport only when absolutely necessary.
- Unless you initiate contact, do not provide your child’s Social Security number (or any part of it) over the phone, online or in-person.
- If you are asked for your child’s Social Security number ask these three questions:
- Why is it needed?
- Isn’t there another way to identify my child?
- How will my child’s information be protected?
- Lock birth certificates and documents with your child’s Social Security number in a safe place.
- Use a cross-cut shredder to dispose of any trash containing personal information.
- Talk with your children about identity theft. Create a safe environment with open dialogue. Leave the door open for them to ask questions or express concerns.
- Most schools ask for personal identifying information. Ask if this is optional or if another form of identification such as a utility bill is sufficient.
- Never use your child’s Social Security number to open accounts for your benefit. This may be tempting if you have bad credit, but not paying bills on time could keep your child from getting credit cards, student loans, an apartment, or even a job when they turn 18.
- Consider a credit monitoring and identity theft protection product for your family, such as Equifax Complete™ Family Plan, which can help protect the identities of two adults and up to four minor children in one comprehensive plan.
Sending your kids off to school is stressful enough without the added worry of identity theft. Protect yourself and your family by keeping your personal information safe.
The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.