Child Identity Theft

June 20, 2018

There are a lot of reasons why a child’s identity and ID information is target #1 for some cybercriminals 

Unfortunately, a child’s personal information is particularly susceptible to criminals looking to steal an identity. Most often, child identity theft starts with a stolen Social Security number. This highly-valuable piece of information can then be used or sold on the black market. It’s particularly attractive because a child’s SSN has little to no history, allowing an identity thief to exploit the information, often going unnoticed for many years.

As reported in a study by Carnegie Mellon University, children were 51 times more likely than adults to be victims of identity theft and, most often, the culprit is someone close to the child, such as a parent, guardian, or other relatives who would have access to sensitive information. Additionally, a child’s Social Security number can also be compromised when it’s shared with third parties, such as schools or medical facilities, where copies of sensitive information could be lost, stolen, or hacked.

When used correctly, the technology we rely on does a great job keeping our private data and information protected. Although nothing can entirely prevent identity theft, a secure device and a little awareness can go a long way.


What makes your child's digital identity vulnerable? 

Outdated security software and device operating systems: Although updates can be annoying, they are essential ensure your device is functioning correctly. They keep your information and device defended against the newest forms of cyber-attacks, and patch critical vulnerabilities in a device’s operating system or software.

Unsecured Wi-Fi networks and website scams: Free public Wi-Fi networks may be monitored by cybercriminals while you’re using them. Another common strategy for individuals looking to steal your information is launching fake websites, or breaching secure websites to access passwords. Using network and device vulnerabilities such as those previously mentioned, cybercriminals target user information in order to steal highly-sensitive personal data, some of which include device passwords, online accounts, financial information, saved documents, and personal records.

Poor password security: We rely on our passwords often and, therefore, tend to make them easy to remember. However, as mentioned above, it’s possible to have your passwords breached, stolen, or compromised at any moment. Remember, if a password has been breached, it’s accessible on the dark web. 

Viruses, malware, and tracking software: Although these are most often introduced after accidentally downloading unknown file or attachment, malicious software can be physically installed directly onto an unattended device. In many cases, this tactic is used to lock users out of their device until they purchase their “recommended” anti-virus software. Tracking software often goes undetected, allowing criminals to monitor your Internet connection and view your search history. 

Educational data breach: In recent years, digital classrooms have introduced a new problem: student data breaches. An increasing concern over the security and privacy of student data requires policy that protects children from both marketers and criminals. Therefore, educational institutions have the responsibility to ensure that data privacy device security a priority. 

Online social media, chat, and gaming: Keeping us more connected than ever before, the Internet makes staying in touch, speaking to, and playing games with individuals across the world nearly instant. However, social media, texting, and other online platforms and applications make it easy for bullies and criminals to successfully hide behind an online presence.

What is a digital identity?

Your digital identity is nearly everything you own, share, and do on the Internet, and is recorded as data and activity. This means the information you share online, and the way in which you do it, can be analyzed and potentially exploited by an individual who intends to destroy your reputation, or even steal your identity. The following types of information are attributed to your digital identity 

Personal Data: Login credentials, search activity, date of birth, Social Security number, medical history, financial records, and cloud data 

Online Activity: Online accounts, comments including personal information, photos, Tweets, and online banking activity

To reduce the risk of having identity-related information stolen, young children and teens should avoid sharing personal information online, using social media, and posting videos and photos that can make them especially vulnerable to a cyber-attack. 

Defend your child's identifiable information:

  1. Make sure that all networks and connected devices are secured and up-to-date. Specifically, this means creating unique passwords, adding parental controls, adjusting content settings, backing up saved data, and enabling automatic security updates.
  2. When it comes to external organizations like schools and medical facilities, inquire about their policies and history regarding data security protocol. You could also ask for information on their emergency response plan.
  3. Limit the time children spend online to decrease the chances of them accidentally exposing their own personal data. Make sure to communicate with kids about how to stay safe online.

Since identifiable information and personal data are so vulnerable, adults need to take the necessary precautions to protect the personal information and Social Security numbers of their families.

This piece was written by a special correspondent to STOP. THINK. CONNECT.™, their team of advocacy leaders in the cybersecurity industry specializes in identity theft awareness for all age groups.