It’s a well-known fact that cybercriminals set their sights on easy targets, but their tendency to target children might still surprise you.
LAN Masters President Mike Della Pia recently spoke with WESH 2 News about the rise in data breaches and identity theft, and the consequences that go along with these incidents. The problem with identity theft is that it targets individuals from all walks of life, and it’s often difficult to spot until the damage has already been done. While major data breaches will tip off large groups of affected consumers when the breach is made public, that’s not always how these incidents are uncovered.
But one thing the consumer credit reporting company didn’t address after the breach was made public was how many of those records involved children, and they’re yet to respond to requests for comment on this particular subject.
Why would children be impacted by a breach at a credit reporting company? Well, identity theft for children is reported to be 51 times higher than that of adults. Social Security numbers are of special interest because they can be associated with any name and birth date, giving criminals more leeway to do what they want with the information they have. Another ‘perk’ to targeting children? They also offer thieves a clean financial canvas, letting thieves use the same identity for longer before that particular credit is no longer any use to them.
As a general rule, the FTC recommends parents check if their children have credit reports in their name when they turn 16. If a credit check does turn up a credit report in your child’s name, you should freeze it immediately. While this option isn’t available in all states, Florida allows it. Freezing your child’s credit keep the thief using their identity from doing any more financial damage to that child while you start the process of filling a credit fraud and identity theft claim.
To help keep child identity theft from happening in the first place, services like LIFELOCK Junior and Experian’s Family Plan are available to protect your kids. LIFELOCK Junior is available for individual children for $5.99 a month or $65.99 annually, while Experian’s Family Plan is available for $19.99 per month and includes 2 adults and up to 10 children on a single plan. If the odds of a criminal choosing to target your specific child seem slim, keep in mind that 1.3 million kids are the victims of identity theft annually, and 50% of those victims are under 6 years old.
Where Are Cybercriminals Finding The Information They Need To Steal The Identity Of A Child?
There are a few different ways identity thieves can get their hands on your child’s information. Student directory information often includes your child’s name, address, date of birth, telephone number, email address, and photo. These directories are distributed each year to parents and guardians, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones who can get a hold of a copy. If you want to opt-out of the release of directory information to third parties, it’s best to put your request in writing and keep a copy for your files. If you don’t opt-out, directory information may be available to the people in your child’s class and school, and to the general public.
Cybercriminals can just as easily get this information directly from parents. Just like attacks on adults that use unsecured Internet connections and other hacking techniques to steal identity and banking information, a thief can use information stored on or shared from your personal devices to steal your child’s identity. Tools like Two-Factor Authentication and VPN service like NordVPN can protect data you use online for things like insurance or benefits claims through your provider’s web portal, online registration for organized sports, summer camps, or other activities, or school enrollment.
The primary drivers for attacks on children are:
- Illegal immigration, primarily to obtain false IDs for employment
- Organized crime, primarily to engage in financial fraud by running up credit card debt
- Friends and family, primarily to circumvent bad credit ratings on their own records
To make matters worse, a study done in 2017 shows Florida as the top state for fraud reports regarding both adults and children. 2017 saw 2.6 million fraud reports filed, which is down from almost 3 million in 2016, but still not a great number. Children’s identities being stolen is a growing issue, with the Federal Trade Commission estimating that there are more than 500,000 new victims of this each year.
Protecting your children means taking the same steps you would to protect yourself and your business where their personal information is concerned. A little added caution while they’re still small with save both of you a major headache when they’re old enough to suffer the consequences of an attack like this.
To learn more about what you can do to keep you and your family safe from identity theft, contact Mike and the LAN Masters team at (407) 409-7519 or email@example.com.