April 20, 2023

The ABC’s of Child Identity Theft and How to Prevent It

Fraud is not just a crime committed against adults. Child identity theft is a big problem in the United States. According to Javelin Strategy & Research’s 2022 Child Identity Fraud Study, 915,000 American children were victims of identity fraud from July 2021 through July 2022, costing an average of $1,128 for a single household. However, the numbers are likely higher because child identity theft, in many cases, is under-reported. Identity thieves and scam artists target children because their credit history is a blank slate, and most of the time, the theft is only discovered when the child has grown up and applies for credit as a young adult.

Here are some tips on how to help protect children from identity theft:  

  • Social security numbers are the most compromised piece of information. The Federal Trade Commission recommends not sharing a child’s social security number unless it’s with a known and trusted organization, after asking how they will protect the information and suggesting an alternative identifier.
  • When providing personally identifiable information to a school or organization, ask how sensitive documents are stored and discarded. Ask whether they use a secure document destruction service like Shred-it®.
  • Understand the privacy laws that safeguard personal information. For example, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), gives parents of school-age kids the right to opt out of sharing contact or other directory information with third parties.
  • It is important to store children’s personal information (including social security card, birth certificate, and passport) in a safe or locked cupboard. It is unfortunate to think, but much child identity theft happens within families. With close access to the home, a family member can steal documents containing a child’s personal information and open accounts in their name.
  • Shred all documents that show a child’s personal information when no longer needed rather than putting them in the garbage or recycling bin. Secure document destruction services, like Shred-it®, offer fast and convenient residential shredding options such as:
    • One-time pick-up services. Work with a company that can come to you and pick up your bags and boxes of confidential material. Your documents will be shredded at a secure shredding facility, and you will receive a Proof of Service.
    • Drop-off services. You may also choose to drop off your confidential documents at a location close to you. This option is ideal for paper volumes that aren’t quite large enough for a one-time or regular shredding service.
    • Community shredding events. Participate in or host a shredding event to bring awareness to identity theft and fraud prevention strategies and to provide a secure paper shredding option for residents. Shred-it® holds many shredding community events throughout the year all across North America.
  • Teach children to protect their personal information wherever they are, but especially on social media. Never post full names, addresses, dates of birth, and other personal details.
  • Make sure smartphones, laptops, and tablets are locked and protected when not in use.
  • We keep a lot of personal documents on our electronic devices. Physically destroying hard drives and other electronic media is the recommended way to make data inaccessible. Throwing away old electronics or wiping data does not always remove its memory, potentially leaving it available for unauthorized parties to take. A hard drive destruction service like Shred-it® offers state-of-the-art destruction in two forms, crushing and shearing, subject to local availability.

Learn more about how Shred-it® can help you protect your child’s identity with our secure document destruction services.