Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued a Consumer Alert today encouraging parents to be vigilant about protecting their child's personal or sensitive information.
"Similar to adult identity theft, scammers can use a child's sensitive information to commit fraud," McDaniel said.
If the information gets into the wrong hands, a scammer might use a child's Social Security number to get government benefits, open bank and credit card accounts, or rent a place to live.
Child identity theft also sometimes occurs in circumstances when an adult relative or friend is unable to obtain credit on their own and may use the child's identity to secure credit or obtain employment.
As a precaution, it is recommended that parents check with the three major credit reporting agencies before a child's 16th birthday. It is unusual for anyone to even have a credit report before they turn 18.
By checking a child's credit report at 16, parents would have a couple of years to address issues before the child applies for a scholarship, car loan, apartment, or job. Also, parents would have plenty of time to coordinate with creditors and local law enforcement to address identity theft.
The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects the privacy of student records and gives parents of school-aged children the right to opt out of sharing contact information.
The Arkansas Attorney General's Office suggests that parents ask their child's school about its directory information policy, learn about privacy policies of extracurricular activities that are not school-sponsored, and find out what to do if the school's data is breached.
Here are a few ways parents can protect their children from identity fraud:
- Secure all documents, such as birth certificates and forms that include a child's date of birth and Social Security number, in a safe location.
- Never carry your child's Social Security card with you.
- Although schools and sports organizations may request a child's Social Security number, parents should be cautious about providing such information. Ask your child's school if they can assign your child an alternative student identification number.
- Share your child's Social Security number only when you know and trust the other party. If someone asks for your child's Social Security number, ask why they want it, how they'll safeguard it, how long they'll keep it, and how they'll dispose of it.
- Safely dispose of personal information by shredding documents.