BBB: Your Child's Identity May be at Risk

May 31, 2012

Questions for BBB's Steve Bernas? Email

Crime stats show last year more than 9.9 million Americans were victims of ID theft costing them roughly five billion dollars. The Federal Trade Commission also received more than 19,000 complaints about child identity theft last year. Many parents have no idea that their child is a victim, and this crime may go undetected for years-until the child applies for a job, loan, or rents their first apartment. Major reasons for the identity theft of minors include illegal immigration (to obtain false IDs for employment), organized crime (to engage in financial fraud) and friends and family (to offset bad personal credit ratings).

"Protecting a child's identity is easy and vital," said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. "Simply follow some steps the BBB provides, and you may save your child from hardships in the future."

To protect your child from identity theft, consider the following advice:

Never carry around a child's Social Security card. This increases the risk of losing the card, which is the most common way for identity thieves to obtain a child's information. In addition, don't give children their Social Security numbers until they understand how and why to protect the numbers.

Shred documents. Always shred documents with personal identifying information. The Better Business Bureau hosts events; for more information on upcoming Chicago-area Shred Day events, visit

Find out who has access to the child's personal information at school. Verify the records are kept in a secure location. Under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) the privacy of student education records and gives you the right to: inspect and review your child's education record, consent to the disclosure of information in the records and correct errors in the records.

Monitor your child's online use. If a site requires users to register, see what kind of information it asks for and whether you're comfortable with what is needed. If the site allows kids to post personal information, talk to your child about the risks and benefits of disclosing certain information in a public forum.

Set strict privacy settings on social networking sites. Social networking sites let users determine with whom they want to share information with. Talk to your child about restricting access to his or her profile to only friends or users in safe networks such as their school, clubs or church groups.

For more tips on securing your identity, visit

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