10 ways to protect your child from identity theft

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These ten steps can help put essential safeguards in place to help protect your child’s identity. 

1. Freeze your child’s credit immediately.

Children under the age of 16 shouldn’t have a credit file. If yours does, there’s a good chance they’ve been targeted by an identity thief. 

Contact each of the three major credit bureaus and ask them to check for any credit files associated with your child’s SSN. Even if you find nothing, you should ask them to freeze your child’s credit. 

Here’s how to get in touch with the credit bureaus to freeze your child’s credit report:

  • Equifax: Call 1-888-378-4329 or fill out and mail in a minor security freeze request form.
  • Experian: Use their online portal to fill out a minor security freeze request (or print and mail it in).
  • TransUnion: Send a request for a “protected consumer freeze” including copies of your government-issued ID and documentation that you have authority to act on behalf of the minor. 

Each bureau (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) has slightly different requirements. To be safe, send in copies of the following documentation:

  • Your government-issued ID. 
  • Your birth certificate.
  • Proof you have authority to act on behalf of the minor (such as a foster care certification, power of attorney, or your child’s birth certificate).
  • Both your and your child’s Social Security card. 
  • Proof of your address.
  • Keep copies of everything you send to each credit bureau. When you receive a confirmation letter, it will include your child’s credit PIN, which you’ll need to unfreeze it later on. Store everything in a secure place along with your other sensitive documents. 

2. Don’t give out your child’s SSN.

Keep your child’s SSN and physical Social Security card secure and don’t give them out if it’s not absolutely necessary. In almost all cases, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the only entity that requires your child’s Social Security number. 

If a school or doctor’s form requests their SSN, leave it blank. If they’re adamant that you include it, ask why they need it, how they’ll use it, and how it will be stored. You can always give them just the last four digits (instead of the full number).

Girl looking at a phone in hallway

3. Keep your child’s sensitive documents in a secure location.

Unfortunately, the majority of child identity theft is carried out by family members or other people you know. Any document with your child’s personal information should be kept in a secure place away from prying eyes (ideally, a locked and fireproof safe). 

Here’s what you should keep locked away: 

  • Your child’s Social Security card.
  • Your child’s birth certificate.
  • Any medical records (to prevent medical identity theft).
  • Other documents with sensitive information. 

4. Start monitoring your child’s credit and SSN.

It’s impossible to constantly monitor everywhere a criminal might use your child’s SSN. Also, that would be super stressful! Credit and identity monitoring services scan databases and can alert you of potential signs of identity theft. 

For example, Aura will alert you if your child’s SSN or personal information has been stolen and leaked online.

5. Teach your kids not to overshare online (and don’t do it yourself).

Oversharing on social media can make you the target of phishing attacks and imposter scams, where fraudsters pretend to be friends or people you trust and get you to give up your account information. 

Children on social media are also at a higher risk of having their passwords and other personal information leaked in data breaches. 

To help keep your family safe on social media, make sure to:

  • Use the strictest privacy settings on your profile to restrict who can see and interact with your posts. 
  • Limit commenting and message access to only close friends and followers. 
  • Teach your kids not to post personal information, such as their birthday, address, SSN, driver’s license, or other documents. 
  • Consider disabling location sharing.
  • Think twice before posting publicly on any social media site.
  • Limit their use of messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram.


6. Secure your child’s devices from hackers.

Your child’s phone, tablet, and laptop could potentially be hacked by scammers who want to steal their personal information. 

Keep their devices and your home network safe from scammers by:

  • Enabling biometric security (fingerprints, face ID, etc.) to lock their devices. 
  • Encrypting their data so that if they get hacked, their data can’t be accessed. (All devices running iOS use data encryption by default. Here’s how to encrypt your data on Android or Windows devices.)
  • Installing antivirus software to protect against malware attacks. 
  • Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on your home network to stop hackers from spying on you and your family.
  • Teaching your kids to spot the signs of an online scammer.
  • 7. Don’t ignore strange mail in your child’s name
  • Bills, junk mail, and other strange mail in your child’s name is a huge red flag. If you start to receive anything suspicious, contact the company directly to see how they got your child’s information. Be especially cautious if you start to receive pre-approved credit card offers as this is a clear sign that your child has a credit file (even if you didn’t start it). 

8. Limit the number of accounts and services your child signs up for.

Think twice before entering your child’s information on apps, websites, giveaways, or services. Whenever possible, only use your own email address rather than any identifying information. 

Once your kids have their own social media accounts, follow them to monitor what they share. Give them guidance on what’s safe to share and what could be putting them at risk.

9. Delete personal information off old devices before trashing them.

Like most parents or guardians, you probably have devices full of photos of your children as well as their personal information. If you ever decide to sell, donate, or recycle an old device, wipe it and restore it to factory settings first.

10. Sign up for family identity theft protection.

You know the importance of child identity theft prevention, but you’re also just a person. It’s impossible to be everywhere at once. That’s why an identity theft protection service can be a powerful tool for keeping your entire family safe.

Even basic information can be enough for an identity thief. A scammer can use photos of your phone to uncover your address or use your posts to guess passwords or security questions, like your pet’s name or child’s birthday.

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