4 Ways to Protect Your Teen From Identity Theft

We all know identity theft is a big national problem. But did
you know identity theft is more common among kids, teenagers and college
students than any other age group?

Since this age bracket tends to have squeaky clean, blank
credit reports, identity thieves prefer to steal from kids. In fact, a 2011
Carnegie Mellon study of more than 40,000 children found kids under age 18 were twice as likely as their parents to be identity theft victims. 

Identity theft among kids can be particularly messy, too. Since
parents don’t usually think of their kids’ financial identities being stolen,
they may not check their credit scores often. And that can mean identity
thieves go undetected for months or even years. Until your son applies for that
first student loan or credit card, he won’t have a clue he has been targeted.

So what can you do to protect your teenager’s identity? First,
talk with him or her! Teens can take active steps to protect their identities,
starting now. Begin having conversations with your children about identity
theft as soon as they sign up for their first social media account – and before
they open a bank account!

Wondering what to tell your teen about protecting himself from
identity theft? Here are four steps teens need to take:

1. Don’t overshare.

Kids are growing up in a world of sharing – Instagram
photos, Facebook updates, tweets and more. If your teenager follows the crowd,
it’s likely that every detail of her life is searchable on social media.

It’s OK for kids to Instagram a photo of their latest
skateboard stunt or update Facebook with a status about tomorrow’s history
exam. But teach your kids boundaries when it comes to what they share on social
media
, and who they share with.

Particularly, teens should not reveal their full address or
phone number online. Information like this is a gold mine for identity thieves,
who can use it later to snatch other data about your child.

2. Keep your banking
information to yourself.

Once your teenager has a bank account, it may be tempting to share
that information with friends, too. For instance, say your kid is in the
passenger seat on movie night. He needs to swing by an ATM to pull out cash for
the movie and dinner after. Instead of getting out of the car, he
gives his ATM card and PIN to the driver and has her complete the transaction.

It seems innocent, but this is a terrible habit to start. Sure,
most of your teen’s friends probably aren’t going to steal his debit card and
wipe the account clean. But giving away PINs and online banking passwords could
be the start of a slippery slope. So be sure your teenager understands to
always keep that information private.

3. Shred credit card
offers.

Kids are getting credit card offers at younger ages these days.
This will be true, especially, if your teenager takes out a student loan or a
secured credit card to build credit. The offers will come flooding in.

But when you’re sorting mail out for your family, don’t let
your teen simply trash those credit card offers. The preapproved offers could
include a lot of valuable information that would make it easy for identity thieves
to open an account in your child’s name.

So instead of tossing out those credit card offers, run them
through a shredder. Get your teenager to do this herself. It’s a good habit to
start – one that she’ll want to carry through the rest of her life.

4. Check credit together.

For a younger child, it’s OK for you, as the parent, to simply
pull a credit report once in a while if you think your child’s identity has
been compromised. But when you’re dealing with a teenager, it’s better to go
through this process together. This way, your teenager understands how to pull
his credit report and also knows what warning
signs to look for
.

If you or your teenager notices a problem on his credit report,
contact the appropriate entities right away. For instance, if you spot a new
account you didn’t open, call the bank immediately. If you notice fraudulent
charges on an account, contact the police department to file a report.

These four steps don’t guarantee your teenager will always
avoid identity fraud. But they’re good habits to begin, and they’ll help you
and your teenager notice right away if something is amiss. Start building these
good fraud protection habits now, and your child is less likely to be a target
in the future.

Article source: http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2014/06/22/4-ways-to-protect-your-teen-from-identity-theft

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