School will be out in just a few weeks, and if you haven’t already done it, it’s time to fill out those registration forms to get your kids into summer camp.
This year, take special care when completing those registration forms. Most summer camps ask for children’s birth dates and Social Security numbers, but—in most cases—they don’t really need them. And, every time those bits or identifying information are divulged and recorded, the child’s identity theft risk increases.
The Federal Trade Commission estimates that 500,000 children are identity theft victims every year, and the Identity Theft Resource Center discovered that more than half of those children are under the age of six; in fact, the younger the child, the more appealing a target he or she is for identity thieves.
Until people apply for credit, they have no credit file, but when that first application is submitted, a credit history is initiated, and whatever information—such as the birth date submitted by the applicant—becomes part of that file.
Most children and parents don’t discover the crime until the child applies for a job car loan, student loan or apartment lease. By that time the thief is long gone, and the victim’s credit record may show years of unpaid credit card bills, auto loans and even mortgages.
Worse still, the child could end up with a criminal history if the thief has used that stolen identity to acquire a driver’s license and been caught committing other crimes.
The first step in protecting your child’s identity is refusing to give out a birth date or Social Security number unless it’s absolutely necessary. So, when you fill out those registration forms for summer camp, sports programs, scouting, etc., leave those fields blank; chances are, nobody will notice. If they object, explain your reasoning. With any luck, they’ll not only let it go, but revise the forms to help protect the children they’re caring for.