With the new school year underway, your to-do list has included immunizations to protect your children against illness. Don't forget to also immunize them against identity theft.
Unfortunately, the mountain of paperwork you have to fill out for such things as after-school programs and sports team physicals leave your children prime targets for identity theft.
According to a 2012 study by Javelin Strategy and Research, 2.5 percent of U.S. households with children younger than 18 experienced child identity theft. In reality, the number is higher because many young victims might not realize their identity has been stolen until they become adults.
The No. 1 thing that identity thieves are after is a child's Social Security number, the primary component of crimes that utilize a synthetic ID, the Javelin report said.
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Criminals create a synthetic ID by combining a child's Social Security number with a different date of birth to fabricate an identity that can be used to commit fraud.
"When someone asks for a date of birth or a Social Security number in connection with a child — whether it's preschool or kindergarten — you really need to ask them, what do you need it for and what are you going to do with it and who else is going to see it? How do I know that it's protected?" said Adam Levin, founder of Identity Theft 911, which provides identity management and identity theft recovery services for businesses.
Here are some tips for protecting your child's identity:
■ Don't carry your child's Social Security card around with you.
■ Use a cross-cut shredder to destroy documents with your child's full name and other identifying details, including date of birth.
■ Teach your children the importance of protecting their personal information on social media.
■ Make sure your kids use passwords for their smartphones and tablets. Also, teach them the importance of changing passwords frequently and never sharing passwords with others.