Have you seen previews for the new movie Identity Thief? It looks hilarious!
Jason Bateman plays a well-mannered businessman who learns his identity has been stolen. He hits the road in an attempt to foil the thief and lands in the path of a deceptively harmless-looking woman played by Melissa McCarthy (from Bridesmaids). While the movie promises to be a gut-buster, identity theft is serious and scary when it happens to you or someone you love!
Identity theft is on the rise with 10 million victims per year – that’s 19 new victims per minute! And here’s an even scarier fact: Children are the fastest growing segment of identity theft victims in the United States. From an identity thief’s perspective, it’s really the perfect plan - steal a kid’s identity because no one will notice until they apply for credit at 18 years old. That’s 13 years of using someone’s identity! Because of this, your child is 51 times more likely than you to have their identity stolen.
Imagine your sweet 5 year old holding down a full time job! That is what happened to Carter Andrushko of Utah. Talk about child labor! Carter's mom discovered this when she applied for Medicaid in 2009 and found that someone had been using Carter's Social Security number for years. Because children don't usually have reason to check their credit reports, the crime often goes undiscovered.
Here are 5 easy steps to help protect your child:
1. Stranger danger!
Teaching your kids to be careful what they share with strangers isn’t just an “in public” thing. Sharing personal information on the internet can be just as dangerous. Social networking sites are havens for identity thieves scanning these sites and children can innocently provide information without thinking if they haven't been alerted in advance about what to avoid.
2. Just the facts, ma’am!
There are a few great ways to run check-ups on your children’s public records. First, request an annual social security earnings record – this will alert you of anyone using your child's Social Security number for a job. Second, run a credit check every year. It's important to run it using their Social Security number because the identity thief can change the name and/or date of birth.
3. Ask questions!
When your child's social security number is requested, ask why. "Protect your child's information as carefully as you protect your own," said Linda Foley, who founded the Identity Theft Resource Center. "Guard Social Security numbers and only give them out when vitally necessary."
According to the New York Times, we should question requests to provide a child’s Social Security number when filling out basic forms. Certainly, it is needed for tax purposes and will likely be requested by financial institutions. But, is it really needed by schools, sports organizations or other community groups?
4. Secure Social Security info!
Keep your child’s personal information safe. Shred any old documents with “sensitive” information like date of birth, Social Security numbers. Do not carry your child's Social Security cards with them and do not use the card for routine identification. A police officer in my neighborhood recently advised me to buy a cross-cut shredder. This machine basically turns your sensitive papers into confetti making it impossible for a “dumpster diver” to piece the information back together. On the flip side, if the identity thief wants to thrown a party, it works out perfectly!
5. Get help!
While no one can guarantee your identity won’t be stolen, there are services that can greatly decrease your chances and provide help if it happens! They’re available at various prices and many have packages that cover your immediate family. Look for a service that doesn’t just allow access to your credit report. The premium services are constantly monitoring multiple sources (credit bureaus, financial institutions, property records, insurance groups, and cell phone records) looking for suspicious activity. It’s important to catch it early…before you get hauled off to jail for a crime someone committed in your name! It’s also important to have help if identity theft does touch your family. Many services help resolve the issue with resources and experts to get it cleaned up. If you’re considering an identity theft protection service, click here for more information!