Your child, no more than 8 years old now, could be a victim of unpaid loans and credit card bills by the time he’s 18 – without him ever knowing about it until then. Sounds like a sci-fi film? Think again. Identity theft is now a big threat to children, 51 times more than in adults.
In the United States, the social security numbers of about 10% of children were reported to have been stolen and used without their knowledge for driver’s license applications and purchase of cars and houses. According to the Theft Resource Center, there has been a significant increase in the number of victims who are children.
Identity theft is defined as the usage of your personal identifying information by someone else without your permission, with the purpose of committing fraud and other crimes. The American Consumer Reports states that along with computer viruses, bullying and sexual predation, identity theft is one of the major risks faced by children online.
How on earth, you ask, could a child fall victim to such a scam? One word: Facebook. About 20 million children get to use the popular social networking site by giving false ages (the minimum age requirement is 13), and sometimes, they even have their parents’ consent.
How can you prevent fraud or cybercrime from happening to you and your kids? Here are some ways:
1. Protect your computer. Update your spyware protection, use unique passwords, don’t divulge them to anyone, and periodically change them. 2. Be vigilant. If you did not join in any contest, be wary if someone says you won. Phone calls by strangers asking for valuable information or asking them to update their records should be avoided. 3. Teach your child about identity theft. It’s the same as “don’t talk to strangers”, in a different venue. If someone tries to engage them in a conversation, teach them to politely break away.
Sources: • May 18, 2011. Linda B. Bolido. “Identity thieves targeting children” Lifestyle.Inquirer.net • August 13, 2010. Christina Cheddar Berk. “Stolen Innocence: Theft of Children’s Identity Rising” CNBC.com