Your child was just accepted into the college or university of their dreams. Unfortunately, they were turned down for a much-needed loan to help pay for tuition. What happened? Years earlier, identity thieves had stolen their national identification number. Identity theft ruined their credit before they had a chance to build their own record.
Your child’s Social Security Number (SSN)could have been stolen in a data breach at the school or the pediatrician’s office. Or it could have been exposed when you sent their application and birth certificate to the youth soccer league.
More than 14,000 cases of child identity theft are reported each year in the United States.  However, one study estimates the actual number of victims is more than one million. To fraudsters, your child’s identity is as valuable as gold because children have clean credit and that makes it easier to open fraudulent accounts. Known as synthetic identity theft, criminals build an identity around a legitimate national identification number and combine it with fabricated information to apply for credit cards, set up accounts, and get government benefits.
How child identity theft happens
If your child is under age 12, it’s likely you’re not monitoring their credit reports. This gives thieves ample time to build a credit history and rating for a fabricated identity. By the time you discover the bad news, it’s already negatively impacted your child.
You may think you’re safe because your child’s identity card is securely stored. But there are many ways we willingly part with our child’s personally identifiable information (PII) all the time. Consider these examples:
- School and medical forms
- Summer camps
- Sports leagues
- Other extracurricular activities
That’s why parents must limit sharing their child’s national identification number. School and medical forms often ask for it, but it’s not always necessary. Instead, ask if you can use a different identifier or only provide the last 4 digits. If it is a requirement, be sure to ask how the requester will use the information and how it will be protected.
Minimize the risks for your child
In a recent survey, more than a third of child identity theft victims had to seek professional help to deal with the emotional strain and 68% are fearful it could happen again. The effects of child identity theft can have long-lasting and negative consequences.
Watch out for these common red flags
It’s important to be vigilant when protecting your child’s identity and credit. Be on the lookout for suspicious activities such as unexpected bills in your child’s name and other notices associated with your child.
Additionally, pay attention to any notifications from your child’s school or doctor’s office about a potential data breach. According to recent data, 60% of cyber incidents at K-12 schools involved unauthorized disclosure of student data. If you think your child’s data may have been compromised, it’s important to contact the school to notify them and get more information. In many cases, schools don’t realize a breach has occurred. To learn more about digital defense tools individuals can use to protect their personal information, contact your local Rural Mutual Insurance Agent or visit www.ruralmutual.com
 FTC, Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, 2019
 2018 Child Identity Fraud Study, Javelin Strategy and Research
 “The Emotional Toll of Child Identity Theft,” Experian, August 29, 2018
 “The State of K-12 Cyber Security: 2019 Year in Review,” EdTech Strategies, LLC, 2019