On a daily basis, criminals scour the internet for personal information they can use to commit fraud and identity theft. Individuals need to take steps to protect their privacy and information from fraudsters in the digital age.
The same is true for children as it is for adults, as kids can be victims of identity theft long before they reach adulthood. For identity thieves seeking to assume the identities of children, social media is a valuable source of information.
Social media platforms can actually make your children more vulnerable if you share too much information about them. Remember: for more tips on how to improve the quality of your life, visit www.credithealing.org.
How Thieves Can Use Social Media to Gain Information
Those who grew up using social media may not hesitate to post photos or comments about their children. It’s very convenient to keep friends and family up-to-date, no matter where they are.
By sharing information about your kids, you leave an online footprint that your child has little to no control over. Some of the information you share can be valuable to identity thieves.
A child’s name, age, and birth date are key pieces of information that can be used for fraud. Social media platforms can be used by identity thieves to find public posts that contain clues to this information. The posts may even be used or sold by an unscrupulous friend or family member.
An identity thief could get your child’s name and birth date from an Instagram post about your newborn.
The Consequences of Identity Theft for a Child
Almost all forms of identity theft require a Social Security number. If, however, a criminal already has your child’s SSN, they can use social media to fill in the rest of the information to open fraudulent accounts in your child’s name. In synthetic identity theft, thieves combine certain bits of information about your child with falsified information in order to create a fake identity using your child’s Social Security number.
A child’s identity can be stolen for years without being detected. Parents rarely check their children’s social security numbers, and children can’t apply for credit until they are 18. When your child is applying for a loan, credit card, or apartment lease, they may discover that their SSN has been compromised.
Although the victim will not be held legally liable for financial losses caused by identity theft, it may take them months or even years to clear up the mess and regain control of their social security number. There can be a lot of bureaucracy involved and you might even have to pay out of pocket.
How to Avoid Oversharing on Social Media
If you post pictures or talk about your kids online, especially in public forums, be careful. Even if your posts are private, friends and family may be able to access your child’s information.
You should check the privacy policies and settings of any website you use. You might be able to keep specific photos reserved for certain individuals, for instance. However, you should consider the implications of sharing photos and information about your children before they can consent.
It’s a good idea to refrain from sharing too much information about your child, including their full name and date of birth. Even a simple happy birthday post could lead an identity thief to your child’s birthday.
Be aware of what information your favorite websites collect. Unless a parent gives permission, websites cannot collect data from children under the age of 13.
Monitor Their Online Behavior and Teach Best Practices
After your child is online, it’s important to keep an eye on their online behavior so they don’t share private information or visit dangerous websites. While your child learns to navigate the web, you can monitor their online activity using software.
You should teach your children good privacy habits, including:
- Avoid sharing names, phone numbers, addresses, passwords and other personal information
- Avoid clicking links or opening attachments from unverified sources
- And never message strangers.
Even if it doesn’t result in identity theft, the information your children share online can come back to haunt them. Pictures and comments can be forever linked to your child’s name and reputation. Make sure your child is aware that the information they share online can have real-life consequences.
Is your personal information on the dark web? Make sure your identity isn’t at risk!