Whether your child is 12 months or 12 years old, chances are you’re thinking about their future.
For my husband and I, that means saving now for future expenses such as a wedding, or a down payment on a house for our daughter. While we’re not paying for her college education, we are preparing now to set the stage for her solid financial future.
And one of those things is her credit.
Previously, I talked about whether you should help build your child’s credit score: whether or not it was even ethical, admirable, or morally advisable – to much controversy, I might add. But regardless of whether or not you want to get your child and early start on their credit score, you certainly need to be protecting it – or the lack thereof!
Now more than ever, child and adults alike are at risk for having their identity stolen, and their credit irreversibly damaged. Currently, I work preparing tax returns, and this year has had more cases of stolen identities used to file tax returns that ever before, which got me thinking about my daughter’s credit score.
Is it something I should be monitoring?
Are there any steps I can take to prevent her identity from being stolen?
True to my nature, I did some digging, and came up with a bunch of great ways that you can protect your child’s identity:
Hold Their Social Security Number Close To The Vest
From the moment they’re born, it seems like children are engulfed in a flurry of paperwork. There’s paperwork for the hospital, the birth certificate, the pediatrician, and of course, the insurance company. When our daughter was first born, I admit that I did carry her social security card around in the diaper bag because it was so much easier. It really seemed like everyone needed that little, 9-digit number. However, Parents Magazine warns against doing this. No matter whether it’s the school or the doctor’s office, just say no to giving out your child’s social security number unless it’s absolutely necessary. Data breaches often start innocently enough, but will wreck your child’s credit before you can say “Credit Card.”
Treat Mail With Care
Well, actually, treat your shredder with care. When mail comes for your children with identifying information such as birth dates or social security numbers, shred it! Pay special attention to preapproved credit card offer, bills, or collection notices addressed to your child. These could be red flags that someone is using your child’s information inappropriately.
Limit Social Media Exposure
What you decide is right for your child, social-media wise, is between your and them, but what you need to limit while on social media is the release of identifying information. When it comes to protecting your child’s identity, you can’t be too careful, and you need to realize that the criminals who prey on children’s identities are especially crafty in their methods. Make sure you have installed software that protects against hackers, malware, and viruses, as all could lead to a possible identity crisis. Additionally, avoid keeping sensitive data such as passwords and usernames on your computer. Instead, store them on a flash drive that is only attached to the computer when needed.
Smartphones are Vulnerable Too
Well, all smart devices, really, including tablets, internet-connected televisions & game consoles. And, no matter what you’ve heard about Apple devices not being able to get viruses, make no mistake – your iPhone is just a vulnerable when you put sensitive information into as any other unsecured device. Set up passwords on all of your electronic devices, and consider installing a GPS locater and data-eraser on all of your mobile devices so that int the event one is stolen, you can wipe all personal data and not have to worry about your identity being compromised.
Monitor Your Child’s Credit
Whether you’ve chosen to add your child to your credit card or not, did you know that you can monitor your child’s credit (or the lack thereof)? Free credit-monitoring services such as Credit Sesame, Credit Karma, and WisePiggy all let your keep an eye on your child’s credit, and some will even notify you when something changes with regards to credit. Considering signing up for one or all of these sites to keep an eye on your child’s credit.
They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and when it comes to your children’s identity that saying couldn’t be more right! In our house, we now do all of these things, because I can’t image setting our daughter up for anything but a solid financial future.
How do you protect your child’s credit? Let me know in the comments!
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