Identity Theft is an ever-growing problem. In the wake of repeated, massive data breaches, identity theft has grown into a serious problem that affects millions of people every year in ways many of them never anticipated. But perhaps the saddest victims of identity theft are children.
Your Child's Data is Everywhere
Most people assume that their children are safe. After all, kids don't apply for credit cards, right? They don't buy houses. So how does that data get out? All sorts of ways. Kids sign up for all sorts of things -- online games, sports teams, travel documents, magazines, and social media. Of course, the social media oversharing usually isn't the kids' fault; it's their parents’, who often share far more information about their children's daily lives than the kids are comfortable with. (Imagine how embarrassed you were when your parents showed your naked baby photos to random house guests. Now imagine that "random house guests" includes "literally everyone on your mom’s Facebook friend list," and you might understand what it's like to grow up in the 2010s.) France has even gone so far as to warn parents that their kids could grow up to sue them for violating their privacy.
Your Child's Data is Being Used Already
Of course, that data is already being used. The free market means companies are foolish not to use every advantage they have and knowing your shopping habits is an enormous advantage. Consider the time that Target deduced a high schooler was pregnant before her father did. They're so good at knowing what pregnant people buy, that they noticed some tell-tales in her purchases and sent her coupons for baby goods. Her father found the flyer and came to the store in a rage, but after talking to his daughter, called to apologize.
Your Child's Data is Vulnerable
However dystopian and creepy that Target story may be, it's perfectly legal. But your child's personally-identifiable information is vulnerable to theft, and kids make a particularly great target for ID theft. They're perfect when you think about it. Their credit history is pristine. You can't freeze a credit file because they don't even have a file to freeze (unless you live in one of the 19 states that have recently made allowances for that). But do you know what the most appealing part of stealing a kid's ID information is to a thief? It never occurs to most people. Kids don't check their credit scores; most kids don't know what a credit score is. If they pick the right person, they have years -- maybe even a dozen or more years -- before anybody catches them. And in the meantime, they can apply for utilities, rent a place to live, get a job, and even receive fraudulent government benefits, or use your child's insurance for medical bills. And you might never find out until you try to go in with your daughter on a new car, or learn that you can't claim your 6-year-old son as a dependent because he's listed as being employed full-time.
This Has Potentially Massive Consequences
Taking care of identity theft is already a convoluted process. The fraudsters' financial data -- and even medical data -- gets tangled up with yours, and it can cost a lot of time and a lot of money to straighten it all out. Now take that and compound it over years. Imagine a case where someone's credit history has more fraudulent activity than legitimate and involves transactions that were closed over a decade ago. Now imagine that your credit is that desperately mangled, and you're trying to apply for student loans.
It's Up To You To Protect Them
At the end of the day, you can't count on happenstance to tell you that your child's identity has been compromised. Especially since happenstance in these cases usually happens to be terrible. But there are steps you can take. You can call up the credit bureaus and make sure nothing's going on in your child's name.
But you can also take out identity theft protection. It tends to be cheaper for kids, especially as an add-on to an adult program, and it offers a variety of services. Identity Guard's kID Sure program looks for SSN exposure, and criminal, DMV, or utilities records. LifeLock Junior, available as an add-on to an adult membership, costs $6 a month, and includes the LifeLock Identity Alert system, black market surveillance, lost wallet protection, $25,000 in lost funds reimbursement, identity restoration support, credit file detection, a $1 million service guarantee, searches across file-sharing networks, and of course, LifeLock's trademark 24/7 support.