Parents & Kids Beware: Back To School Brings Big Identity Risks
It’s back to school time! Yes, it’s an event that kids all over either anticipate or dread to their souls. I was generally in the latter camp when I was that age—as I suspect many are—though not for any tangible reason, as the experience itself was never horrible for me once it began. Still, the worst I had to worry about was getting barred from recess for the day. Imagine if you’d also had to worry about identity fraud.
Whether it’s from information stolen from school rosters, programs, or other opportunities, kids have become a prime target for identity thieves. About 1.3 million are affected each year, half of whom are under 6 years old—which means the theft could potentially go unnoticed for many years. “Identity thieves are patient, persistent and creative,” says Adam Levin, chairman and founder of the identity protection and breach recovery firm IDT911. “Any particle of information they can find and use to find other pieces of info, build a mosaic until they create whoever they wish to create.”
Social Security numbers are, naturally, a significant particle, and often form the core around which thieves like to construct their fraudulent personae. And this extends far beyond the classroom. Pediatricians’ offices, bribes to hospital billing departments, data breaches, or even a simple swipe of the physical cards: it seems that windows to steal a child’s critical information exist at every turn. Unfortunately, studies indicate that this results in 4% of breach victims saying their children’s SSNs had also been stolen, and that the abuse rate for the SSNs of kids is about 51% higher than for adults.
Becoming the victim of identity theft could have severe repercussions on a kid’s life for years to come, potentially even affecting their ability to get a student loan for college down the line, or when trying to buy a car. In today’s interconnected world, it’s important that both parents and kids know the importance of their data, and to avoid sharing personal information like this whenever possible—which, in the case of SSNs, should be almost always. Unless required by law, no one, especially a student, should ever give these out; if they must, they should also be aware of who has access to it and how it’s protected. For parents, almost half of the US allows the option to put a freeze on your kids’ credit reports until they’re of age, which prevents criminals from trying to take advantage in that manner.
School presents enough work for kids to handle. Don’t let their identities be part of it.