A father’s job is never done. You may feel as though you’ve covered the bases with your teen. You’ve talked to her about safety in numbers, being a defensive driver, and the importance of choosing friends wisely. Still, there are more bases to cover.
According to a study by the Family Online Safety Institute, 51 percent of teens say they are very concerned about their identity being stolen. Your teenager is the perfect victim for someone who needs a fresh start because she is likely to have clean credit and an unblemished criminal record. For a criminal, stealing your child’s identity allows him to open new credit cards, buy things online, even rent a home and connect utilities, all using the information stolen from your teenager.
The fact that there are so many ways to steal an identity is the primary reason it is so difficult to prevent, says the experts at Lifelock. Prior to the Internet, it was a common practice for a thief to assume the identity of someone who had died, a scheme called “ghosting.” Today, it’s as simple as gathering as much information as possible from public forums and stolen bits of information.
As a father, your job is to educate your teenager and help her come up with rules for protecting her precious identity.
In Charge, a group dedicated to helping military members and their families with financial decisions, says that you should monitor your teenager’s online activity. She probably won’t like it, but look for instances in which she has provided too much personal information. Instruct her that if she is making a party announcement on Facebook, she should not include her address for random strangers to see. Tell her to leave her birth year off of any social media and to never use her entire name. For example, she might refer to herself as Daniella D, rather than Daniella Marie Davis. The less information an identity thief has, the more difficult it will be for him to assume her identity.
Learn to Ask Why
No matter who asks for your child’s social security number, find out how they are going to use it. This might include a doctor’s office, school, or insurance agent. Make sure that you know her social security number is serving a specific purpose and that it will be protected.
Find out what your child carries on her person. The National Crime Prevention Council says that identity thieves routinely steal purses or billfolds in search of personal information. Make sure your child does not carry her social security card, checkbook, or any other document that includes information that can be used to assume an identity. Identity thieves need only your child’s name, address and social security number to convincingly pretend they are her.
Talk to Your Teen
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to protect your teen from identity thieves is to talk to her. Explain how easy it would be for someone to steal her identity, suggests Stanford Federal Credit Union. Tell her how the misuse of her personal information can haunt her for years. Any bad credit the theives rack up will show up on her records, forcing her to go through the process of cleaning the mess up. Tell her how important it is to keep identifying information to herself and that she should never give out information over the phone or fill out a form before speaking with you.