How Safe are Your Children's Identities?

While adults may be incredibly savvy about the risks of credit card fraud, identity theft, scams and scammers few of us consider that it may be our family that is most at risk from identity theft. Fox News recently reported that 31% of all cases of identity theft are now the theft of teenagers and young adults’ details. This growing trend means that we should now monitor our families personal details even more closely and take steps to ensure that our family don’t fall victim to identity fraud.

Why Target Teenagers?

Teens have become the largest targets for a number of reasons. Firstly, teens tend to have clean credit records. They are unlikely to have loans, credit cards or any major expenses like mortgages or car payments to make. This clean record means that it is easy for criminals to secure lines of credit using teenager’s details; as they will have no black marks against them. Secondly, because teenagers are unlikely to apply for credit cards or other forms of unsecured loan, criminals have a very long window of opportunity in which to conduct fraudulent activity.      In many cases the fraudulent activity will not become evident until the teenager applies for a loan, credit card, driving license or university – when their credit details will be checked. It is very easy for fraudsters to capitalise on this as by the time things are found out it is already far too late. Finally, teenagers have become easy prey because they spend so much time on the internet. They share personal information on social networking sites, submit their personal details to websites or fall victim to phishing email scams. It is very easy, unfortunately, for online criminals to slowly peace together enough information to create a working, fraudulent, identity.

What do we need to do?

As parents we should be taking much more active steps to prevent our children from falling into identity theft traps. The core of this comes to education. We need to make sure our children fully understand what we can share online and what we can’t. You need to take the time to teach them to not share personal information, there home address, to use a pseudonym on websites, to never give out their home address, birth date, security numbers, bank details or anything else! It seems obvious but plenty of adults fall into these traps as well – perhaps thinking that sharing personal details on, say, Facebook is somehow safe!

At the same time we need to educate our children, and ourselves often, about the dangers of the online world. We need to show them how scammers operate, how phishing emails work and how viruses can compromise our personal details.  These are the basic protocols we now all need to be facing and we need to ensure adequate education on our part as well as there’s.

However, we shouldn’t confine ourselves simply to the online realm if we want our teenagers to avoid identity theft problems. Firstly, we need to make sure that our children check their bank statements every month and account for any expenses; whilst looking for any discrepancies that might be the sign of identity theft. At the same time teach them about credit cards and credit card statements (also a great opportunity to teach them about interest rates) and have them go through yours in order to get them in the practice of paying close attention to their personal finances. It is also becoming increasingly commonplace for older teenagers to apply through credit cards themselves to avoid potential unnoticed credit problems – as you’d be unsurprised to see how quickly credit companies will contact you if you seem to be massing up debts elsewhere! Teaching your children to use credit responsibly is an important life less and good to integrate with identity theft protection.

What to do in the event of Identity Theft

Unfortunately if identity theft has gone unnoticed for a long time it can be difficult to recover the credit report damage that will have been done to your child. Initial steps are to contact the banks, credit card companies and any local authorities/ fraud bureaus that exist in your region. Credit card money itself is protected so you won’t end up having to foot the bill yourself; as long as you are clear with the creditors that this is a case of fraud. However, the real issue is in repairing credit ratings that have been damaged. While many black marks will simply be removed you may need to take steps to actively improve your teenager’s credit rating. This will entail the careful use (supervised preferably) of credit cards so that your teenager can begin to build a stronger credit history. That said the best way to combat identity theft is to never allow them to get into these situations; by educating them!