By Kelley Keehn,
FP Canada Consumer Advocate
Identity theft is a major concern across North America―and it’s not limited to adults. Increasingly, identity thieves are targeting children.
Surprised? What’s even more disturbing is that the theft of a child’s identity is often carried out by a person known to the family―someone who has easy access to personal information that might be left in plain sight.
Unfortunately, the theft of a child’s identity may not become apparent for years or even decades. Why? Because children do not typically have a credit file. Until they apply for a student loan, credit card or rental apartment, the damage goes undiscovered. To repair the file after such a compromise can be extremely difficult and take weeks of dedicated effort.
What steps can you take to help protect your child’s identity?
Safeguard your child’s SIN
With just a Social Insurance Number and a child’s name, thieves can begin to build a fake identity to steal from credit card companies, banks and other organizations.
Keep your child’s SIN under lock and key with their other personal documents like their passport, birth certificate and Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) statements.
Share SINs only when absolutely necessary―not with any extracurricular or school group that asks.
Before sharing your child’s SIN, ask how the number will be stored, protected and disposed of. If you can’t get this information, consider it a red flag.
Only give a child their own SIN when they’re old enough to understand its true value.
Avoid oversharing online
All too often, key pieces of personal information are shared on social media sites. Identity thieves can piece together enough details from online postings to build a fake profile. Talk to children about the value of personal information and the importance of keeping it private―and don’t share key details on your own social media accounts.
Don’t post dates of birth or information about upcoming celebrations.
Don’t share addresses or personal information about family members and friends.
Avoid sharing when your family is going on vacation and your home may be left empty.
Turn off location tracking on your accounts.
Beware of online scammers befriending kids to extract personal information, such as those appearing to be friends who aren’t familiar to you.
Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing
Anyone you let into your home could potentially steal your child’s information for personal gain.
Don’t leave personal information, credit cards or financial data in plain sight.
Keep all documents with personal and financial information in a secure place.
Shred all outdated or unwanted information containing personal and financial data.
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