Attorney General Ford Offers Tips for Parents of Young Children for National Cybersecurity Awareness Month

October 26, 2021

Carson City, NV – Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford warns parents during Cybersecurity Awareness Month that even minor children can be vulnerable to identity theft, and parents should take steps to keep children’s personal information safe.

“More than ever, children are connected online, whether through social media, by using smart toys, online games or simply by entering information on a phone, tablet or computer,” said AG Ford. “A child’s personal information could be used to apply for government benefits, open a bank account, apply for a loan, sign up for utilities or even rent a place to live.”

Sources of Children’s Personal Information

With the internet and all of the services collecting personal data, there are several ways your child’s identity could be compromised. Take precautions like the following:

If anyone asks for your child’s Social Security number, such as a school, ask why it is needed and what the organization or business will do to protect it.

Request the use of a different identifier when possible. While providing only the last four digits of a SSN is preferable to the entire number, even a partial SSN can be risky for children born prior to June 25, 2011, because only SSNs issued after that date were randomized by the Social Security Administration.

Treat any of your child’s identifying documents as you would your own; lock up Social Security cards, birth certificates and medical bills in a safe place. Shred any documents you don’t need rather than throwing them away.

Smart toys, such as baby monitors, talking dolls or smart teddy bears, may also pose an identity theft risk, as the devices may be storing information that could be hacked by unscrupulous third parties. Before buying one of these devices, read product reviews to find out if the toy or device has any reports of security risks. Read the device’s privacy policy to find out how the information is being used and find out if the toy will update security patches automatically, or if you will have to periodically check for updates. Consider not using your child’s full name and information to set up any accounts associated with the toy. Finally, monitor how your child uses the toy and discuss with your child how to safely use the toy.

Monitor your child’s social media accounts and activities on online games. Avoid sharing information on social media that could be used for security questions, such as pets' names, elementary school names, employment history and full birthdays. Be aware that quizzes or other games on social media may be designed to collect personal information.  Consider whether you want your child to use their full name on social media accounts or online games. If you do allow your child to create an account, make yourself a part of their network so you can see what they are posting.

Lastly, have an open dialogue with your child about online safety. Educate them that people online may not be who they claim to be and that they should protect their personal information.

What To Do If Your Child’s Identity is Compromised

Despite your best efforts, your child’s personally identifying information may be stolen. Some signs that your child’s identity may have been stolen include:

Your government benefits are denied because someone is already using your child’s Social Security number;

You receive calls for past due bills in your child’s name for accounts you did not open;

You received letters from the IRS claiming unpaid taxes in your child’s name, which could be the result of someone using their Social Security number for a job; and

You are denied student loans for your child because of bad credit associated with your child’s Social Security number.

Even if you don’t experience any of the above signs, you may still consider checking to see if your child has a credit report. Generally, if your child is under 18, he or she will not have a credit report unless someone is using their identity. Call each of the three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — and ask for a manual search of your child’s Social Security number. When your child turns 16, you may consider searching if he or she has a credit report so you can correct any information before your child starts looking for a job, student loans or a place to live.  You can also freeze your child's credit with each of the credit bureaus.

If your child’s identity is compromised, take the following steps to correct it:

Report and close any false accounts. Call the companies where the accounts are set up and close the account. Ask for written confirmation that it has been done.

Contact the three credit bureaus and ask them to remove the false information from your child’s report.

Freeze your child’s credit report. If your child is younger than 16, you can request a free credit freeze. The freeze will remain until you remove it. Your child can also remove it themselves at age 16.

Report the identity theft to local law enforcement and the Federal Trade Commission. Include as many details as possible.