According to the federal government, identity theft is the use of someone’s name, Social Security number, or other personal information “to commit fraud or other crimes.” Moreover, according to the FTC, identity thieves consider a child’s Social Security number to be particularly valuable because “they lack a credit history and can be paired with any name and birth date.” Furthermore, since children’s Social Security numbers are usually not monitored closely, they can be used fraudulently for a long period of time, with the fraud being discovered only when the child reaches adulthood.
These dire facts make protecting your child’s Social Security number extra important. Steps you can take to secure your child’s Social Security number from identity theft include:
Do not give out your child’s Social Security number unless absolutely necessary. Although many people might ask for your child’s Social Security number – including doctors and schools – you don’t have to provide it to everyone. Ask why the number is being requested, and if an alternative source of identification can be used instead. If the Social Security number must be disclosed, ask how it will be protected. If you give your child’s Social Security number to a trusted friend or family member – for example, so they can establish some sort of financial account for your child – ask them to keep the number secure.
Keep your child’s Social Security number in a secure location. Just as you shouldn’t carry around your own Social Security card, don’t carry around your child’s. And keep it hidden out of sight at home so visitors cannot see it.
Shred or otherwise destroy all documents with your child’s personal information. Treat their personal information as carefully as you treat your own.
Know the warning signs. If you receive unusual mail, such as bills in your child’s name or government notices regarding your child that shouldn’t apply, it could be a sign that your child’s Social Security has been used by someone else.
Periodically monitor your child’s credit report. You probably already know that you should regularly check your own credit report for any errors or suspicious activity, but you can check your child’s credit report as well, although credit reports for a minor must requested by contacting the credit bureaus by mail.