Does Your Child Have a Mortgage?
Touch wood – my kids don’t own a boat. Or a house. Or have a credit card with a bulging debt.
But would you be shocked if I told you that there are three year olds with lines of credit and seven year olds with million dollar mortgages?
I was horrified. And no, it isn’t tiger parenting! It is identity theft at its worst – cybercriminals who intentionally target children and steal their social security numbers (like Australians’ Medicare numbers), birth dates and other unique identifying information.
A US study conducted by Carnegie Mellon CyLab found that 10 per cent of the 43,000 children they studied through background checks had their identity details stolen. The stolen identity details were most commonly used to get a job, avoid bad credit ratings or commit financial fraud.
And the worst part of this unhappy story is that it is sometimes not until these children reach adulthood that they realise they have been a victim. To reach 18 and discover you “own” a Ferrari (that you can’t drive!) and have a bad credit rating plus a history of defaulted loans is definitely not an ideal way to start your adult life. Not only could this affect their ability to find a place to live, but also become employed or even get a mobile phone.
So, what can we do to make sure our kids are safe from identity theft?
- Parents should protect their children’s unique identifying information including Medicare numbers and birth dates as they do their own.
- Tweens and teens need to be educated about cyber security and the need to protect their unique identifying information – particularly when using Facebook. Remind them not to share their personal information such as their birthday, address or the school they attend and to have their privacy settings turned on. And, most importantly, make sure they genuinely know all their friends – cybercriminals are renowned for creating fake Facebook profiles.
- Parents should regularly go on the Internet and check their children’s online presence.
So, before we meet again – do a little detective work and assess whether your kids might be at risk.