Adults are increasingly aware of the risks of identity theft, but how many of us think about protecting our children's identities? This is an issue that we should be thinking about from birth, when baby registries, online birth announcements, and even the "Stork News" sign in the front yard expose kids' personal information--name gender, date of birth, and home address--to the wider world.
Children who get their identities stolen may not know for years, until they grow up and go to apply for a job, student loan, or credit card themselves. You can imagine what a mess that would be. It is important to periodically monitor our kids' credit reports to make sure there is not any strange activity going on.
The South Carolina Now website has a good article on this topic, with links to many resources.
One of the experts in the article points out that parents often use their child's identity because of their own bad credit. Strangers pilfer identifying information through mail, trash, and poorly secured forms (say, at a school or doctor's office).
Some basic precautions start with the idea of paying attention, investigating unusual occurrences such as a young child receiving loan or credit card offers in the mail, and building in precautions like investing in a home office shredder.
Everybody should review their credit reports with the three major credit bureaus, which you can do free once year.
We need to watch what others are saying about us online, and what information we are giving out. Many websites, even legitimate ones, are not in compliance with COPPA, the law that requires verifiable parental consent to collect personal information from kids under age 13. I am researching this topic in greater depth for a separate post, but in the meantime, it makes sense for us require our kids to ask permission before registering for any web site. If you feel uncomfortable sharing the information, don't. The extent of data mining, and how that information is used, is not fully known yet.
Identity theft creates yet another issue for parents to add to their list of important tasks, but this is definitely a case where an ounce of prevention is well worth the effort.