At this point, identity theft has become so common it’s either happened to you (maybe more than once) or to someone you know. Horror stories vary, but this much is clear—ID thieves are getting bolder in their thievery and targeting more than just unassuming adults.
A study by All Clear ID says children are 35 times more likely to be targeted by ID theft than adults. In fact, 1 in 10 children were victims of identity theft in 2011. As a whole, ID theft was up 62 percent last year. The IRS reported more than 640,000 theft cases for 2012.
McAfee Security expert Robert Sicilian’s reports it’s easier than you think for thieves to take over your good name, or destroy your child’s credit history before they’ve even established one.
“A social security number is all a thief needs to open a line of credit in your name, let the bills go unpaid, and ruin your financial future,” says Sicilian.
A common way thieves obtain your social security number is through creating a virus they send through your email (download it and they can hack into all your personal files) or breaking into a database where your credit card information is stored.
Another way thieves can steal your credit or debit card number is through the RFIC on your card. A Radio Frequency Identification Chip can be used to steal the numbers off your cards electronically while sitting completely concealed in your wallet through a few cheap gadgets bought by the perpetrator. You wouldn’t even know anything had happened!
Farnoosh Tarabi, a financial expert for Yahoo presents the following checklist for parents to protect their family from ID theft:
- Install anti-virus software on your home computer and schedule updates regularly.
- Shred any documents that come to your home containing personal information like SSN’s, birth dates, mother’s maiden name, etc.
- Run a credit report on yourself, your child, and any deceased relatives at least once a year. You get one free annual check from the three credit agencies so you can divide them up three times a year, or once a year from each agency.
- Check to see if your credit card has an RFIC (Radio Frequency Identification Chip). If it does, consider purchasing an RFID blocking wallet for added protection.
- Be disciplined over tracking your credit and debit card statements and checking for unusual activity like small charges from foreign countries.
- Go through all your mail carefully. If an ID thief opened up a new line of credit in your name, the bills will likely come to your address.
- Immediately call your credit card companies to issue new cards and freeze your old accounts if you become a victim of identity theft. File a report with your local police department. Most have an ID theft department.