With schools and others requiring my child's Social Security Number, how can I ensure that my child does not become a victim of identity theft?
Linda Criddle, an e-commerce and online safety expert who worked in senior posts at Microsoft for 13 years, urges consumers to carefully guard their child's Social Security Number.
Criddle, who is the author of such books as Look Both Ways: Help Protect Your Family on the Internet, says you don't have to give out your child's SSN to everyone who asks for it. When you do, use caution.
Here are some tips Criddle offers for protecting your child against identity theft:
• Keep Social Security cards locked up. These don't belong in wallets or loose in your home where others may come across them.
• Tightly restrict sharing your child's social security number. You may be asked to provide your child's SSN in many circumstances, such as to enroll them for a sports team, or at your doctor's office. However, you do not need to give their SSN -- you can show other evidence of age or information that your health care provider needs for billing.
• Teach your children not to share their SSNs. When they are applying for jobs -- at which point they finally do have to share the number -- make sure the employer and company are legitimate so the risk of resale is low.
• When creating a bank account for your child, set up only a savings account and make sure there is no overdraft protection included.
• Monitor your child's credit as you do your own. If you wait until you see a red flag, a lot of damage may have occurred, and often you'll see no red flag at all until your child seeks credit. Running a credit report does introduce some risk, but you can mitigate this by freezing their credit. This way, if the very act of checking your child's credit history generated a credit file you have squashed the chances for abuse. Unfreeze their credit when they do seek out a loan.
For this and other information about protecting your child online, visit: http://safeinternet.org/blog/kids-and-financial-id-theft-growing-issue.