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Child identity theft alert

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection asks families to follow guidelines to minimize this risk.

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New York

Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said, “Childhood identity theft is a worrying trend, with children 35 times more likely to become victims of identity theft than adults.”

National Child Identity Theft Awareness Day was recently established to raise awareness of a growing trend affecting families and children

In recognition of National Child Identity Theft Awareness Day on September 1, the Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) urges parents to take preventative steps to safeguard their children’s identity. Child identity theft is a growing problem. According to recent data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), identity theft from children under the age of 19 grew 60% in three years.

“The widespread adoption of technology products has introduced new challenges for parenting. Parents must now also learn the behaviors that put children at higher risk, how to protect them, and what to do when children become a target,” Rodriguez said.

Children today have been raised in a digital world, and unlike past generations, their exposure to these technologies begins at a very young age, leaving them vulnerable to the dangers that lurk in the shadows of technology.

The scale of the problem continues to grow under the growing influence of digital technology, excessive screen time, social media, remote learning, and digital shopping in our lives. Products used by children are not as privacy-protected as they should be and are contributing to the growing problem of child identity theft. According to the FTC, child identity theft occurs when someone uses a child’s personal information to illicitly obtain services or benefits, or to commit fraud.

Warning signs

Pre-approved offers of credit in your child’s name: This is a sign that someone else has used your child’s social security number to fraudulently obtain credit; any communication directed to your child by the IRS; collection calls or past due notices in your child’s name; marketing offers for products and services that come in your child’s name.

Tips for Parents/Guardians

Consider freezing your child’s credit. They are free, but must be registered separately with each of the three credit bureaus nationwide (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion).

Make identity theft prevention a habit. Safely store all of your child’s basic identity documents (birth certificate, social security card, insurance cards) away from people in your circle. Any paper or electronic record that includes your child’s Social Security number must be stored securely, either in password-protected and encrypted cloud storage or in a locked file cabinet or safe.

Set reasonable limits around technology and monitor online activities. For many children, the line between the physical and virtual worlds is already blurred. Children with unrestricted and uncontrolled Internet access are at greater risk of experiencing exposure of their personal information.

  • Make sure children are registered as under 13 on the sites and apps they use. This limits the data that can be collected about them and the content they view.
  • Take hardware and software seriously. Buy products only from reputable companies, install software updates immediately when available, and restrict data collection to the strictest settings a service allows.
  • Secure your child’s cell phone: If you’ve entrusted your child with a smartphone, make sure their device is as secure as possible by adjusting settings for location, screen time, passcodes, and more.
  • Online gaming: Make sure kids play games disguised with a safe and catchy game name and don’t share personal information on game account profiles
  • Internet-connected toys: Parents must be present when toys are installed. Some toys come equipped with microphones, voice recognition, GPS-enabled handheld devices, and artificial intelligence that enable software interaction between the child and the toy. Many can put a child’s privacy at risk. For tips on privacy precautions with tech toys, see the information in this December 2020 Consumer Alert.
  • Social media: Make sure your social media account is set to ‘private’. Most social networks are public by default.

Publicado el 02 de Septiembre 2022

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