Protecting children from identity theft

Last week I outlined the problem. This week we’re going to talk solutions.

First and foremost, treat your children’s documentation the same way you (should) treat your own. Keep important papers — including birth certificates and social security numbers — in a safe and secure location.

Do not carry such documents around with you. Your purse is not safe and secure; it can be stolen in the wink of an eye.

If your child has a passport, keep that secured, too. Carry it on your person only when you are actually traveling and it is required.

Avoid, at all costs, sharing your child’s information via phone or Internet, especially on any call or contact that you did not initiate.

If a valid source asks for your child’s identifying information, e.g. a doctor’s office or a school, ask them (1) why they need it, (2) how they will protect it, and (3) if they will allow an alternative identifying option. If there exists another option, use it. When it comes to places that are provided such information, less is always better.

If you are going to discard information that includes your child’s identifying details, treat that throw-away process just like you would your own. Shred them! Just like you teach your children to look both ways before they cross a street or not to take candy from strangers, teach them the value of their individual identity.

Having an open dialogue with your children is increasingly important in this age of social media.

Explain why they should limit profile information and how to create safer passwords. Identity theft via the Internet is spreading like a wildfire. Yes, it’s a sad commentary on the world around us, but consider these warnings akin to a vaccination against a deadly disease. Because that’s what fraud is. A deadly disease.

Not surprisingly, many compromises to children’s credit come from desperate parents. If your own credit is bad because of misuse or other circumstances, opening a utility account (for instance) using your child’s information can be a temptation.

Your actions now, albeit harmfully unintentional, could conceivably result in great harm or difficulty for your child in the future.

By the way, the majority of these suggestions are the same as those we provide to adults. Identity theft is the fastest growing worldwide crime.

Drop by the Pahrump Valley Times offices, 2160 E. Calvada Blvd., for a copy of Leslie Kim’s latest book “123 Main Street … the Scamming of America.” Only $19.95 while supplies last.

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