Kids like to be scared on Halloween... and some parents too. Unfortunately, some Halloween ghouls and ghosts are real. The danger isn't just the possibility of tainted candy but also the danger of strangers in masks asking for your child's personal information.
So before they go trick or treating, here are seven tips to educate the kids on how to protect their identity while they're all dressed up.
How can identity thieves treat themselves to your child's identity?
Don't let your child tell anyone their birthday that they don't know
The cutest thing in the world is when a child holds up their fingers and says "I'm this many." However, answering the next logical question—When's your birthday?—can give identity thieves enough information to get loans or credit cards under your child's name.Remind your kids that personal information is personal. Telling them not to share personal information goes hand in hand with telling kids not to talk to strangers. (See also: How to Protect Your Child from Identity Theft?)
Be careful of what you post publicly
Facebook pics have gotten people fired, but social media can also aid in identity theft for your children. You may publicly post your home address for your child's birthday party. When you do, you're also posting their birthdate without realizing it. Send messages privately to your Facebook groups so the invite isn't seen by the world.
Be careful with school forms that may reveal Social Security numbers and other private details
When you send your child with an important school form, put it in a sealed envelope so the details aren't visible to anyone. Ask your child - or your child's teacher - to do the same with any school forms being sent home that might contain sensitive information. You can and should also ask before providing your child's Social Security number if it's actually necessary to provide it.
Take appropriate action if your school has a data breach
"Your child's school or the school district may notify you of a data breach. If you believe your child's information has been compromised, contact the school to learn more," the Federal Trade Commission recommends. "Talk with teachers, staff, or administrators about the incident and their practices. Keep a written record of your conversations. Write a letter to the appropriate administrator, and to the school board, if necessary. "You may also decide to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education. Contact the Family Policy Compliance Office at the U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20202-5920. Keep copies of anything you send for your records.(See also: Here's What You Should Do After a Data Breach)
Order all your credit reports
Especially as your child gets older, you want to check their credit reports to clear anything that may get misreported. Do so by the time your child turns 16, but always after a data breach or when you feel someone has been trying to get your child's information. If anything looks suspicious, contact the credit bureau via the dispute button when viewing credit reports electronically. You can also the reporting lender directly with contact information contained on the report.
Beware of phishing scams
With older students, you might get fraudulentaulty requests for scholarships that may ask for account numbers or social security numbers. You may end up with similar requests claiming the request is from your child's school. Don't send this kind of information to either. With scholarships always ask your school guidance counselor to verify whether a scholarship is legitimate. Call your school receptionist about requests directly from the school. (See also: After the Equifax Breach, Watch Out for Phishing Scams)
Know your rights
Just like with adults, your child has rights regarding accurate credit reporting and identity protection. Be diligent and keep their identity protected. Don't post too much private information on social media, and review credit reports when you deem it necessary. Notify your school of any data breaches or scams you encounter. The knowledge you gain protecting your child can help other families experiencing similar issues.
Have a safe and happy Halloween with just enough candy for your children and not enough identity candy for thieves to treat themselves to.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, or other company, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. All information, including rates and fees, are accurate as of the date of publication.