Your Children: the New Personal Identity Target
Remember the Seinfeld episode that established this $50 dare? Eat an eggroll off a stranger’s plate. Don’t say anything to the people at the table. Eat it, say thanks, and walk away. Elaine couldn’t do it. Could you?
What would you do for $45? A lot of things may come immediately to mind. I’ll bet, however, that selling all of your personal data and giving a stranger access to your electronic banking information isn’t one of them.
That’s what your data is worth on the dark web. Some years, it’s worth a little more, and others a little less. This desirable information includes your identification numbers, medical information, and banking accounts – every bit of personally identifiable data, including passwords. Your digital footprint has value. The prize lies in your banking accounts. Paying less than fifty bucks for unlimited access to your money seems like a decent trade to some digital thieves.
You aren’t the only person that interests hackers. They want your children’s data, too.
Identity theft at school
Do you wonder why young children are the targets of identity theft? Most second graders don’t have bank accounts, so hackers can’t be after money. Few middle and high school students have generated enormous medical records, causing their information to be digitized. College students usually don’t have enough money to attract the attention of a hacker.
So what is it about students’ data that’s so attractive? It offers a “clean slate.” No one has used their data, so it’s prime material, ripe for picking.
As it turns out, hackers want to buy “family packs” of data. That’s a collection of personally identifiable information. Schools, for example, collect SSNs and dates of birth for your children. They also collect some of your information, like your names and address. When combined, hackers have a powerful package, a complete digital portrait of your family.
Then they use this information for tax fraud — the new owner of your child’s SSN files for the child tax credit in their name. Unfortunately, fraud doesn’t stop there.
One of the newest trends in fraud is synthetic identify fraud, and that’s why your children’s data is so valuable. Anyone who illegally obtains a minor’s SSN can create a new persona. Without you being aware of it, your Kindergartener could be obtaining lines of credit and making purchases. Fraudsters are fairly confident that you won’t figure any of this out until your child tries to get his or her first car loan. By then, their credit is destroyed.
The family pack sells for around $10, but that’s more than $3 they can get for your SSN alone.
Protect your children and their data
If that scares you, here’s something even scarier. In 2018, there were 14.4 million adult victims of identity theft. Children’s SSNs are stolen fifty times more often than adults’ information.
What should parents do?
First, expect that your child’s data will be stolen. It’s not a question of if, but when the security breach will happen. Schools do not sell data. They do everything they can to protect your child’s identity, but some bad actors desperately want this information.
You can – and should — take steps now to ward off potential disaster if a security breach happens at your child’s school:
· If you use a monitoring service, add your child’s SSN to it.
· Talk with the school to find out what steps they take to prevent identity theft.
· Report suspicious activity to the authorities, including the IRS, and the school.
Hackers and thieves will always look for new targets. Make sure your child isn’t one of them.