Your teen finally gets their driver’s permit or their provisional license and out of excitement, they send a photo of it to all of their friends.
One friend responds with, “Bruh, you just showed everyone your full address and license number.”
But really, all of those people in the text group now have a lot more information about her. They have her date of birth and her full name too. That information could easily be screenshot and reshared.
It could also be sold to a bidder looking for a teen's identity to commit fraud or even more hurtful, a friend could commit fraud using this information.
Identity theft is a concern that affects individuals of all ages, including minors. However, minors are not consciously aware of how easily they are oversharing personal identifiable information (PII).
They don’t think that their friends will jeopardize their information and they never imagine that someone they know would purposely violate their PII.
While specific statistics on the rate of minors who are victims of identity theft may vary depending on the source and the region, it is important to note that children and teenagers can be vulnerable targets for identity theft due to several factors.
These factors include the potential for misuse of their social security numbers, limited financial histories, and the likelihood that any fraudulent activity may go undetected for an extended period.
According to a report by Javelin Strategy & Research in 2018, over 1 million children in the United States were victims of identity theft, with two-thirds of them being under the age of eight.
The study highlighted that child identity theft often goes undetected for years and can have long-lasting consequences.
Organizations such as the Federal Trade Commission and other reputable sources regularly publish reports and studies on identity theft, which may include specific data on minors.
But let me talk some more about teaching kids what to look out for. There are many ways that kids share information without realizing that certain valuable data about them is being given away.
Here are some examples:
- Video posts that show a house number, a street name or that includes any part of an address whether it is visually or audible.
- Posting conversations that include PII.
- Posting photos of their school identification card or anything giving away information about their school, summer camp, or recreation center. This information can be used to target an employee at the organization to unknowingly give up PII on that student.
- Phishing scams on email or social media can trick kids to give up their social security number (SSN) or other personal information.
- Data breaches from companies that have your child’s information (such as insurance companies, their doctor’s office, or even schools).
- Account hacks. This is common when kids use public, unsecured Wi-Fi networks or malware is used to get access to information.
- Physical theft of PII. Documents can be stolen right from your trash or sensitive documents can easily be accessible at home or even at schools.
- Theft among friends and family. Sadly, some people close to you can’t be trusted or might be in such a desperate situation that they opt to commit fraud with the information of someone they think will never notice. They might even say to themselves that they will get a loan and pay it back right away before anyone can find out.
According to Javelin’s study, over 70% of child identity theft victims know the perpetrator.
Keep an eye out for signs such as:
- Mail for your child from places that have nothing to do with your child.
- Bills in the name of your child.
- Letters of denial or acceptance from organizations including government benefits.
- Inappropriate junk mail in their name.
- Magazines in their name.
- Credit bureau letters.
If you find out that your child’s information is being used for fraud, please contact all credit bureaus and ask them to freeze their credit report.
Ask them to remove any fraudulent accounts, contact the organizations listed on their credit history and file police reports.
Lastly, contact the Social Security Administration to find out if they have any records of your child’s SSN being used elsewhere and to notify them that fraud has occurred with their SSN.
Part of educating kids before they use social media or the internet includes PII safety, not just cyberbullying or different types of online exploitation.
Please share this article with other parents who want to keep their kids safe.