The author of a new book on fraud protection is saying children are becoming the newest targets of identity thefts.

Personal finance expert Kelley Keehn, who penned a new fraud protection guide book for the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, says with just a few pieces of personal information, savvy criminals may be able to steal your money, even open bank accounts or credits cards under your name.

Key information for such thefts include birth date or Social Insurance Number (SIN).
“We hear about the data breaches and some people think, well, there’s nothing I can do,” Keehn said in an interview with CTV’s News Channel Wednesday. “There’s a lot that you can do. Not carrying around your SIN (card) for example.”

Now, parents are also being urged to protect their children’s SIN.

Many parents order a SIN for their child in order to open a Registered Education Savings Plans (RESP), but the SIN itself leaves a child vulnerable to identity theft because the number isn’t associated with a birth date. Scammers can easily use the SIN to create a new identity and apply for credit.

Keehn said child identity theft is already taking place in the United States, which means it’s likely to see spill-over north of the border.

“A couple of weeks ago, the Edmonton Police Service said ‘yep, it’s officially on our radar,’” Keehn said.

Child theft is particularly heinous because it can take years to recover from the crime. It’s also difficult to know if your child has been victimized, because children don’t have a credit history.

“It takes sometimes 10 to 15 years to spot it, because kids shouldn’t have a credit report,” Keehn said. “They shouldn’t have any type of debt until they’re 18.”

Generally, the most common way people fall prey to identity theft is by not sufficiently protecting their data and not being vigilant with their mail, Keehn said.

During tax season, for example, residents begin to receive notice of assessments and bills in the mail.
“Are we protecting our mail? Who would know if a bill went missing,” she said.

Keehn suggests people check their credit reports regularly to see what credit has been applied for under their name.

“If you see something there that you don’t recognize like a cellphone, or some type of a loan, that would be a tip-off that someone has stolen your identity,” she said.

Keehn also suggests people obtain a proactive credit alert on a credit report, which adds “another layer” of protection requiring the lender to call you when someone is applying for credit in your name.
Here are some tips on how to reduce the risk of identity theft:
  • Never carry in your wallet more credit cards than you need
  • Protect your PIN: Look around when entering your PIN in public areas
  • Never carry SIN card or birth certificate
  • Provide personal information only when you have initiated contact or you know the person you are dealing with
  • Be cautious about personal information published on social networking sites
  • Change passwords frequently
(Source: Edmonton Police Service)