First off I want to state that I have been given the opportunity to be a regional organizer for Identity Guard’s movement to end child ID theft and I could not be more grateful. Back in 2006 I had my identity stolen by answering an email at work. One click caused hundreds of dollars to disappear on my account and find it’s way across the world, my debit card information, account information, everything was swiped. Being a single mother at the time, it wasn’t something that I could afford. Thankfully I had a very nice bank that worked to get my money back and after months of having to change all my accounts, numbers, etc. I still had to deal with red flags for a year. Every time I tried to purchase anything over $50 my bank accounts would freeze. In order to get the money released I had to call a number and let them know that it was me trying to make a purchase. That’s really embarrassing at a grocery store check out line!
It’s been a handful of years and I am grateful to be a little more wiser online, but I know that just like a cold virus – identity theft mutates and the people doing harm get smarter about how they do things as well. I want to talk to you about something that I was somewhat informed about early in my life, but never realized the importance of until now – Child Identity Theft. A form of theft that doesn’t just take money out of your bank or steal your credit card, but actually steals your child’s future.
Joe Mason, the general manager of Identity Guard, has over the last decade played a huge role in saving the identities of over 3 million Americans as well as provided expert advice on CNN, FOX and ABC. He wrote a book that I’ve been reading for the last few weeks called BANKRUPT AT BIRTH: Why Child ID Theft is On The Rise and How It’s Happening Under Parents’ Noses. It’s been an eye opener for sure.
I understood on some levels about Child ID Theft. I had a friend in high-school whose parents would always use his Name and SSN when signing up for home ordering since their credit was shot, by the time he was out of high-school he found he actually had debt from credit cards in his name and unpaid CDs and other items. However, I never thought of all the other ways that a child’s ID could be stolen – some of which are impossible to ever foresee, some by accident and all of them life altering.
Joe Mason calls it The Hidden Epidemic in his book and cites a recent academic study from Carnegie Mellon’s CyLab that estimates that 10 percent of children have or will become victims of Identity Theft. Out of examining over 40,000 records of children, 76 percent involved malicious fraud, 24% were cases of accidental mixed credit file information. Children’s IDs were used to purchase everything from homes and automobiles to obtaining drivers licences and jobs. The largest fraud was $725,000 against a 16 year old girl and the youngest victim being only 5 months old. Age is not a factor in Child ID Theft, it can happen to any kid.
Your child’s most valuable asset is their Social Security Number. It is not something that they should even know until they are an adult and out on their own. As parents we need to protect it because within those numbers hold their future; whether they can get a car, get college loans or funding, get a home or apartment or even a bank account. One of the most important things I’ve learned from this book is that I have control over this number and it is OKAY TO SAY NO. It is not necessary to give it out to every doctor, teacher, after school facility or even to the child themselves. The world will not end if I explain politely that if it is not necessary to provide for any real reason, then I opt out.
Bankrupt at Birth answered every question I could possibly think of. I actually wrote a list of questions for myself, since as a Regional Organizer for Identity Guard’s movement to end Child ID Theft, I wanted to make sure that I could answer things as clearly as possible to those that I speak with. So I was very pleased with the fact that it not only answered all of the questions I had, but answered in a way that I understood as a parent.
My son is going to be 15 in six days. Six days! He made his first Facebook account just this past summer. Understanding this movement and having the free identity theft information from IsMyKidatRisk.com allowed me the opportunity to sit with him and explain the importance of not sharing his personal information, whether on the computer or on his gaming systems that have integrated social networking. Having the Bankrupt at Birth book gave me something to share with him as far as showing him statistics and stories of people, families and children, that have been affected by child ID theft. We were also able to point out ways we could strengthen the security on our information at home as well as online.
I’ll be talking a lot more about this book over the next few months and even give a detailed video review! For now, if you’d like to get a better understanding of child ID theft you can check out IsMyKidatRisk.com, and claim your free Child Identity Theft Protection Kit. There is also a free chapter of Bankrupt at Birth by Joe Mason that you can check out to get started on keeping your children’s ID’s safe.
This service and the book Bankrupt at Birth were provided to me for review at no charge. In addition I received monetary compensation. All opinions are my own