Guest post by: Marilyn Prosch, Ph.D., CIPP
W.P. Carey School of Business
Department of Information Systems
Privacy by Design Research Lab
As parents you may worry about your children losing their skateboards and bicycles, so you teach them to protect them, perhaps even lock them up. You may also worry about your children losing their cell phones, iPods, or perhaps even a gift card; so you teach your kids to keep them close at hand.
But did you know right now, someone could be stealing your child’s most valuable asset, their identity!
A recent study showed that 1 out of 10 children had their “identity” stolen. This frequently leads to bad credit your child may not know about for years. So – later in life when your children are ready to purchase a cell phone in their own name or buy a house; they may have trouble buying anything that requires a credit check, because somebody stole their identity and ruined it!
Social security numbers should be protected by both you and your children. They should only be used for tax returns, applying for passports and, in rare cases, maybe to register a child for school. Later in life, social security numbers will be used by your children for credit checks. Let’s all hope that your children get to start with a clean slate, when that happens. Cleaning up your credit or even cleaning up criminal records, on average takes about 160 hours to get back in order. That is one month of working full time on nothing else!
When social security numbers were first created in 1936 as part of the New Deal, they were never supposed to be used for identification. That process has evolved. But, remember the concept! Ask questions. Teach your children to ask questions, before they give out their social security numbers.
Another troubling area is healthcare identity theft. The number of uninsured children is approximately 8 million – or 10.7 percent of all children in the U.S. Many people know that their social security number is no longer on their insurance card, cavalierly give out their healthcare ID numbers.
Healthcare identity theft can cause bills to be incurred in your or your child’s name. But, much more troubling is that someone else’s health history can end up intertwined with your child’s potentially causing inappropriate medical treatment or denial of medical/life insurance later in life.
Below are some guidelines to protect against identify and healthcare identity theft.
9 general guidelines consisting of 3Ps to protect your identity
Pause, Ponder, Protect!
Pause, if anyone or organization asks for your child’s social security number, then ponder (think) about the following in order to protect your child:
1. Unless your child is applying for a job or a passport, don’t give your social security number to anyone!
2. If a public school form requests it, ask the school for a policy (required by law) that explains how and why they use it. Mention the Privacy Act of 1974. If the school doesn’t provide it, don’t provide your social security number. (If you are further interested go here.)
4. Lock up your social security cards in your house, in case your house gets robbed.
5. If you notice credit card applications coming to your home in your child’s name, check their credit from 1 of the 3 free credit agencies. (Equifax, TransUnion, or Experion) You get 1 free credit check a year from each agency, to learn more go here.
6. Actually -- follow number 5 annually! Check your child’s credit once a year.
7. If you notice bills, like cell phone, utility or credit card bills, coming in your child’s name; this is a bit more troubling. Unfortunately, some kids’ parents or relatives have bad credit, so they may use their children’s identity, but sometimes they ruin their kids’ credit too. Make sure none of your family members are inappropriately using your child’s identity for personal purposes.
8. Protect your medical insurance information. This is tougher than you might think our public school systems repeatedly ask for this information for every field trip. Work with your school to develop better systems that protect this information.
9. Every month/quarter carefully review your Explanation of Benefits, that come in the mail, to make sure all hospital, doctor visits and prescriptions filled are valid and correct. Even if you don’t owe on copay, someone may have had a treatment using your insurance card or your child’s information and paid the copay. The insurance company will have paid the rest and while you owe no money, it will go toward your lifetime maximum and also be a part of your child’s permanent health record.
Bottom line: Be Proactive to Protect to your child’s “Person.”
Pause, Ponder, Protect!