One of the most common and longest evolving Cyber threats has been that of Identity Theft. Your ID can be stolen from a wide variety of sources. For example, hijacked username and password is usually the first place where a Cyber attacker starts at, or even your Social Security Number or Credit Card Number, with the other extreme being using all of the background check tools that are now available online.
Identity Theft simply does not mean that your complete identity is stolen, but just parts of it (as described above) in order for a Cyber attacker to achieve what they want most – which is making a financial gain off of your good name. We all have heard of this term, but how is it specifically defined? It is as follows:
“Identity theft is when thieves steal your personal information in order to take over or open new accounts, file fake tax returns, rent or buy properties, or do other criminal things in your name.”
True, this is a rather broad definition, but now you have a better understanding of what it is now. Identity Theft can attack us in all areas of our lives, especially when we least expect it to happen. In the past, the trend used to be for ID Theft to occur quickly, but now, the Cyber attacker is taking their own sweet time now to target and profile their victims so that they can get a complete picture of you.
Once they are satisfied that they have all of the pieces of the puzzle put together, that is when they to work. They may not steal a lot from you right away, but they will do it in very small amounts over a long period of time.
That is why of the best tips to protect yourself is to keep checking your online financial accounts at least twice daily (I do this, usually in the morning and the evening) for any activity that you do not recognize even the slightest.
Also, as experts say, you should also check your credit reports on a regular basis, at least on a quarterly basis. This may seem to be a bit much, but remember Identity Theft occurs after a long period of time. You need to be aware of any incremental activity that you do not recognize on a consistent basis, so that in case you do become a victim, you can nip in the bud before it really spreads.
But now, ID Theft just does not impact the average US adult, and extremely sadly to say, it even impacts the most treasured assets that as a society we have – our children. Despite the passage of the recent Federal Law that allows you to freeze your credit file (even for free), experts are now even recommending that you even freeze your child’s credit file as well.
All of this was done due to the massive data breach that occurred at Equifax last year, which impacted the records of almost 150+ million Americans.
It does not matter whether of if your offspring is just 2 months old or even 17 years old. The truth of the matter is that the Cyber attacker will after anybody that they can get their hands on. But in the case of children, this problem can become even more exacerbated. For example, suppose that you just opened a new Social Security Account for your newborn.
Then let us also assume that months later, that it has been covertly stolen by a Cyber attacker.
You may not even know that your little angel has become a victim until, say there are in their teens. This is the time when they will want to start to work part time somewhere, apply for loans and scholarships, and maybe even try to buy a new car. But, when they attempt to try to do all of this, they cannot, because their credit has been severely damaged by the Cyber attacker.
At first, there will be some great shock, but once you, as a parent, help your teen really discover what happened, it could be too late, and it will take years to fully repair the damage.
That is why it is important now to take steps to protect your child’s future!!! In fact, as horrible as it as sounds, there are over one million cases of child ID Theft that occur each year here in the United States. That is why when you a credit file is opened for your child, you freeze it ASAP. Now, it is important to keep in mind that this is not a permanent one, it is just a temporary freeze.
So, for example, if your grown-up teen wishes to apply for a loan to get their first car, you lift the freeze, so that they can apply for the money. Also, you should not just check your own credit report on a quarterly basis, but also that of your children as well. In fact, it is estimated that only 50% of the American population even bother thinking about checking their credit reports.
It has been estimated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that it can take up to 30 hours total of work to claim your identity back after it has been stolen. But, the major assumption being made here is that you discovered it early on enough that you could do something about it.
Just imagine you were late in doing this, and not only was your identity stolen, but all of your kids as well!!! Of course, the larger the family is, ID Theft can be that much worse.
If your child is under the age of 16, as a parent, you will need to submit a written request to all three major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian). You will also have to submit extra documentation such as a copy of your child’s birth certificate and/or Social Security card.
In addition to this, you will be required to submit your own set of documentation as well that you are actually the parent.
But teens who are in the range of 16-17 years old can request their own credit file freeze. It is also important to keep in mind that research has shown that stealing your child’s identity can stem from at least two sources:
*Their Smartphone – recommendation is don’t even give them one until they are on they are on their own in college. Just get them a pay by use for phone if they are in high school.
*Adding them as an additional to your credit card – if you do this, then it becomes even that much more important to check your credit card statements!!!
Finally, how to further protect your families’ identity can be its own book. But, I will be blogging more about this in future, so stay tuned!!!