MIAMI (CBS4) – The last thing on most parents’ mind this time of year is worrying about having identity thieves steal their children’s personal data to take out credit cards, loans, and even renting homes in their kids’ names.
But it’s something that is a growing problem that parents should pay attention to it.
“It hasn’t really been a thought actually,” said Monica Nares, a mother of two in Kendall. “I remember their pediatricians office putting it on their initial papers and probably in their schools registration. But I haven’t really put their information out there other than those two times I can think of.”
Recent studies by Carnegie Mellon University found children may be 50 times more likely to have their identities stolen than adults. The Federal Trade Commission also said it had more than 22,000 juvenile ID theft complaints in 2011.
And parents should know, the problems is getting worse.
“Generally, it tends to come to light once the children do turn 18 and get into the college years and obtain financial aid for the federal program and it comes to light they may have mortgages out in their names and defaults or judgments that they’ve never had any knowledge of prior to that,” said James Porter of the Miami field office for the Secret Service.
Mother of three Janelle Merritt said the identity theft problem is why she is so careful with her children’s identities. She said she asks how their records are being kept and makes sure they’re locked up, whether at her doctor’s office or at school.
“When I look in their office it looks pretty concealed and it looks like it goes into a cabinet that’s locked, so I feel a little secure in that,” said Merritt.
Merritt is doing just what’s the Federal Trade Commission said parents should be doing to protect their kids’ identities. Among the recommendations from the FTC are:
- Ask schools and daycare centers how personal records are stored
- Review school records for accuracy to see what personal information they may contain
- Opt-out of school phone directories, so identity thieves won’t have your children’s home telephone numbers
- Be careful what personal information you release to after-school activities.
“Anyplace that you have to give the child’s information, the social security number, date of birth, first name, last name, address, that type of thing become ways that criminals might obtain it; whether it’s a medical facility or any other type of location facility that may use that information,” said Porter.
“I’m still nervous, we always have fear,” Janelle said. “But I try not to live in fear; bad things can happen anytime.”
Cyberscam experts said computers remain a popular way of getting kids to sign-up for free games or discounts in return for their names and other personal data; and it’s still a very common way for identity thieves to target young children.”