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Let’s face it, children get into trouble. And while parents are focused on the many ways their children could be in danger, identity theft is often the last thing on that list.
One mother, LeAnn Gardner, says, “You’re reminding me I should worry about that too. There’s a lot to worry about.”
Another mother, Shenna Rambert, says, “I never really thought about it per se, but it’s something that I need to think about.”
Because child identity theft is happening and you may not realize it until it’s too late.
Charleston Police Department Crime Prevention Officer, Sgt. Trevor Shelor, says, “They only find out when that kid is 18 or 20 years old trying to go get a car loan and they find out something happened 15 years ago when they were little.”
But there are five steps to keeping you child’s identity safe.
One, don’t fill out the ID tags on your child’s belongings, like their backpack.
Sgt. Shelor says, “Kids love to fill in that ID tag… Name, address, phone number, all this kind of stuff. It might help get the backpack back if it was stolen, but how many places do your children go and they put the backpack down? Anyone can just waltz along and steal the entire book bag or just slip that card out and now they’ve got a lot of identifying information about your child.”
Two, guard your child’s birth date and social security number.
Sgt. Shelor says, “Having their birthday out publicized with their name is opening a door. Facebook wants your birthday? Make one up. Keep your child’s social security number close. Only use it when you absolutely have to, on insurance paperwork and stuff like that. Because once it’s out there, it’s out there.”
Three, be cautious when checking your child’s credit report. You may think it’s proactive, but it could just be opening the door to cyber thieves.
Sgt. Shelor says, “If you make the inquiry, through Equifax and those others, with your child’s name and social security number, now they are together out there somewhere in the Ethernet and somebody out there someday might be able to find that and make use of that.”
Four, enroll your child in South Carolina’s free identity theft protection program. You will receive an alert if your child’s identity is being bought or sold online.
One father, Brian Calwell, says he already does this for his son. He says, “We’ve had him signed up the past couple of years and make sure that no one runs off with birth certificates, socials, information like that. I mean, I think if someone wants to get their hands on it they can, but being notified when it happens kind of helps streamline the process.”
Five, freeze your child’s credit report. This option is free through the state and means businesses won’t be able to access your child’s credit report without your permission.
And one more bonus tip, keep an eye on your junk mail. If mail for pre-approved credit cards starts arriving in your child’s name, this could be a red flag that their identity is compromised.