Believe it or not, data breaches do affect children, even as young as infants. The worrisome aspect of recent massive data breaches is that many adults have grown immune to data breach notifications; so much so that nearly half of Americans haven’t even checked their credit following the Equifax breach. If they are not checking their own credit, you can pretty much bet that they haven’t looked into their children’s credit either.
But in recent years, we have seen specific data breaches that targeted the information of children from toy manufacturers and education providers.
The theft of a child’s identity is lucrative to a cyber-criminal because it can remain undetected for years, if not decades. Without regular monitoring, a child’s identity that has been stolen may not be discovered until they are preparing to go to college and start applying for student loans or get their first credit card. By then, the damage is done and the now young adult will need to go through the pain of proving that their identity was indeed stolen.
It may be surprising to many but a 2011 report found that children are 51% more likely to be the victim of identity theft than an adult. It was found that one of the victims was only five months old and another teenager had over $700,000 in debt in their name.
And just a year ago during tax season, cybercriminals on the DarkWeb were caught selling the social security numbers of infants for just $300 per social to be used on fraudulent tax returns. While data on children has been on sale for many years, this is the first believed case where hackers are specifically targeting newborns and “fresh” social security numbers.
So, what can parents do to protect their children and their credit?
The first step would be to treat your children’s social security numbers just as carefully as you would treat your own. Do not provide it to anyone unless absolutely necessary (doctor, school, accountant). And if you have a teenager, teach them how to be responsible with their social security number as well.
Secondly, if you have reason to believe that your child’s information may have been stolen, you as a parent are allowed to request to see if your child has a credit report and secondly, if they do, by request you can also put a credit freeze on their report.