Why are children under the age of 18 almost twice as likely to become identity theft victims as their parents? Teens make easy identity theft targets because they usually have clean credit reports (or none at all). Couple that with the typical teen’s trusting nature, and the stage is set for identity theft. Here are 5 steps that can help protect teens from identity theft.
- Keep personal information private. Many teens are an open book with their friends. They may not think twice about sharing personal information. But all it takes is one less-than-honest or desperate friend to open the door for identity theft. Encourage your teen to protect his identity by not sharing personal information, even with friends.
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- Limit exposure on social media. Most teens are on at least one social media network such as Facebook or Twitter. And most of them are friends with people they hardly know or don’t know at all. Once something is posted, control of that information is forever lost. Identity thieves are keenly aware of this weakness and hang out on social media sites looking for weak links. Teach your teen to limit exposure on social media networks.
- Keep a slim wallet. Your teen should never carry more than is necessary in his wallet. Old-fashioned pick pocketing is still popular with identity thieves. Social Security numbers are especially valuable, and there is usually no reason for a teen to carry a Social Security card.
- Shred, shred, and shred some more. Help your teen get in the habit of shredding anything with personal information before getting rid of it. Unsolicited credit card offers contain a wealth of personal information that makes it easy for an identity thief to open credit in your teen’s name. Buy a shredder and use it to discard of anything with personal information.
- Monitor your teen’s credit report. Once your child starts using credit, teach him the importance of knowing what is on his credit report because that is the information used to calculate his credit score. Review it periodically to check for accuracy. That’s often where evidence of identity theft first shows up. A credit monitoring service is an easy and effective way to keep tabs on your teen’s credit report.
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