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Ways To Protect Your Child's Identity

Monday, August 17, 2009

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Who should read this article:

Any parent with minor children who use the internet


Identity theft is a huge problem worldwide. It is not limited to adults; children can also have their identities stolen. It's much harder to catch someone using a kid's identity, since the child is under the age of 18.

Think about it: how many kids do you know that use a credit card? How many youngsters under the age of 18 work on a regular payroll(where they get paid by check, not cash)? Not many, I'll bet. How long do you think that person will be able to work or buy things using your child's identity? Not long or not at all if you are vigilant from the beginning.

This article will give you tips to proactively protect your minor child's identity.

Proactively protect against ID theft:

1. I've often wondered about those family websites. Let's take a fictional family: the Brown's. On sites like these, you will often see pictures of all the children, where they go to school, how old they are, and so on. You can certainly share these things with other family members, but what possesses these people to put their family business online? Millions of internet users can study websites like these just by typing "list family websites" into any search engine.

Tip: a family site is not an appropriate place to post anything personal family information. It's very easy for an online predator to steal private information. Take any family site down immediately.

2. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace have exploded in popularity. I've often seen profiles of people that also list each member of their family, their photographs, and other identifying information. These social media sites are extremely popular these days, so there are lots of predators that can study each profile. All they have to do is become a member and start searching!

Tip: make your social media profiles as brief as possible. Post nothing(including any family pictures) that you wouldn't want used against you or your child.

Tip: whatever you do, don't let your minor child have his own social media profile. If she insists, do not let her post any pictures or any other information. She can even use an alias. Make sure you monitor her usage closely(insist on having her username and password).

3. This one is interesting: you need not provide your kid's school with his social security number. Apparently, many schools ask for it and you DO NOT have to provide it. Wow, how easy it would be to grab hundreds of socials in one go. Can you see how many unblemished credit records you would have? Think of how many of these ssn's can be used for work purposes.

Tip: don't provide your child's school with his social security number. The school can, if they wish, generate a nine digit random number(as an example) to represent your child. It should raise a red flag if they insist on it; in this case, consider another school for your youngster.

4. Does your child have a savings account? There is no need to give away any of your child's personal information to the bank. All you need to do is establish the account in your name. Your child's name can appear as the account holder, but your name should also be there as the guardian. And if the bank needs an identifying number and they insist on a social security number, give them yours. You can also take your business to another bank.

Tip: if your child has a bank account, establish it yourself and use your social security number if the bank insists.

5. Keep your kid's social security card(and yours too!) under lock and key in your house. Preferably, keep all private information in a file folder and store it in a fire-proof box. Keep the safe hidden in a closet. Anyone breaking into your house will most likely be looking for cash or small items they can fence easily. They will not be looking for documents.

Tip: store all your youngster's personal information in a file and put it in a fire-proof safe that has a lock on it. Never have any personal documentation in an unlocked drawer or on a shelf.

6. Many new online users think that sending regular email is safe, their privacy assured. Nothing could be further from the truth. Email is easy to intercept and read. Most email users are not sophisticated enough to encode all their messages and have the receiver at the other end decode each message before reading. Lots of people use their email attachment capability to send pictures and other information about their children to other family members and friends.

Tip: don't use email attachments to send family photos and especially other identifying information on any family member. Online information is simply too easy to steal. So what can you do instead? Send any pictures via the post office or even better, UPS or Fedex. If you send the photos along with other things, it is very unlikely to be opened and resealed enroute. Think about it: the bad guy has to open the package, look around for identifying information he can use, and reseal the package. It's too easy for him to get caught!

Tip: if you need to send personal information about your child, use registered or address/return/receipt mail. That's the safest way. Even your telephone conversations can be monitored if someone wants to go to a LOT of trouble, but it's possible.

Tip: if your child has his own email account, make sure you know his user name and
password. Monitor his email yourself. Encourage your kid to make up an address book of his trusted friends and relatives. Then set up his email so that anything coming from other addresses is sent to the junk folder AND immediately deleted. Your son or daughter should never has to see any junk email.

Tip: make sure to investigate any new friends your child adds to his address book. If it is someone he knows only online, you need to find out what you can about this person before any emailing takes place. Again, monitor your child's email, to the point of reading any email before she does. You will not be popular, but you will feel safer. As your child gets to be about 16 or so and seems to be trustworthy, you can relax these rules a bit.

7. When your child starts using the internet, it's time to sit down and talk to him about identity theft predators online. Explain to your son or daughter how easy it is for someone to steal their identities. You will also have to try to help them understand why this is so important. When you start talking about "credit history" and "bad credit" and "ruined credit", it may pass over their heads. You might talk to them about someone working using their ssn, but they may not understand. That's OK, keep talking until they get old enough to understand for themselves.

Tip: talk to your children early about the importance of keeping their identities private. Start when they start using the internet or around 13 at the latest. Use parent controls on your kid's computer, and make these controls as tight as you want. You won't be popular with your children, but they will thank you later when they hear about their friends who have had their identities stolen!

Tip: tell your child again and again not to give out any personal information in emails, especially to someone they met online. Do not allow your minor child to send any pictures of themselves to people you have not met.

8. If you both work and need to hire care providers for your children, do not give these household employees any more information than they need to know. There is no reason for a nanny or babysitter to know your child's social security number. Any child care provider needs to know where to take your child in a medical emergency, what time to take or pick him up from school, what to feed him, and so on. And that's it.

Tip: if you need to hire a care provider for your children, give them ONLY what they need to know to do their job effectively. No matter how long they work for you, they do NOT need to know any personal information about your child, including their social.

9. Here's a pretty obvious one: use a combination of letters and numbers for any password. Also, make any user id have the same equal combination of letters and numbers. So if your child has his own email or social media account, here are some quick tips for user id and password aliases:

Tip: do not use any part of your child's name. No middle names, no confirmation names, no first initial/last name combinations. These are too easy to guess or find accidentally.

Tip: do not use any pet's name, like the family dog. This is especially true if your child posts a picture of his dog and mentions that the dog's name is "Sam".

Tip: a user name or password should not be any word that can be found in the dictionary. There are many password guessing programs that simply go through the dictionary, trying various combinations of words.

Tip: make sure that any user name or password is at least 12 characters long. Many social media or email sites require at least six characters, but this is not enough. The longer the passcode is, the harder it is to guess or dig out using software.

Tip: let's say your kid's name is Joseph David Williams.

Here's an example of an easy to guess user name and password combination:

user name: jwilliams
password: david

Here's an example of a very hard to guess user name and password combination for the same Joseph David Williams:

user name: *Sdc56s+)9s^c
password: 7^jbMj(LA79K&-

Note the use of capital and small letters, special characters, and how all of these can be combined into "words" that make no sense.

Tip: many sites will offer to remember at least the user name. Don't let them. Make your child type it in every time. He will think this a real "pain in the neck" and he's right, it is! But it's better to take an extra minute or two and type in a hard to guess user name/password combination than to have someone steal his identity!

10. Don't let your children have any type of deluxe or feature-rich cell phone. Make sure his cell phone can't do any of the following:

a. Take pictures
b. Has internet access
c. Allows text messaging

Tip: This one's easy. If you let your kid have internet on his cell phone, then his online usage is out of your control. Text messaging can be very expensive. It's something your child does not really need. And there's the whole privacy issue with cell phones that can take pictures. If you give your child a cell phone, it should be "no frills", in other words, just a telephone.


Most of the above is common sense, but it is amazing how trusting people are online. They tell things about themselves that they wouldn't tell members of their own family. They somehow think that what they say is private and that they are invulnerable. This is especially true of teenagers.

You will understand and agree with this article if you make it a point to lock your doors at night and when you are not at home. Why make it easy for someone to break in?

Do yourself and your children a great favor; do anything you can to protect their identities, especially if they use the internet. If your child gets a laptop at school, make sure the school puts restrictions on online use.

One last thing: unfortunately, many people who steal children's identities are other family members. You may have to consider not telling cousins, uncles, aunts, etc any personal information about your child unless they are staying with them.

Don't let anyone convince you that you are being paranoid, better safe than sorry!

John J. Soares
Find the person using your child's ssn
Investigate prospective child care providers
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