Experian Partner Solutions“Child identity theft or fraud will affect one in four children before they are 18 years old,” says Michael Bruemmer, Vice President of Consumer Protection at Experian Consumer Services. Children are especially lucrative targets for cyber criminals as parents don’t typically check their child’s credit report, where the theft can go unnoticed for several years. A stolen Social Security number, for example, may be used to open a fraudulent bank account or apply for loans, which in turn can negatively affect a child’s credit – without them realizing it until it’s far too late.

Though the effects of identity theft can be devastating, following these proactive steps may help decrease the likelihood of attack.

Monitor your child’s personal information
The presence of credit information for a child may be a sign of identity theft. Parents can take advantage of credit and identity monitoring services to help spot credit information associated with your child’s identity. These services can also monitor your child’s personal information, including email address, Social Security number and more, to identify activity on the dark web.

Teach social media safety
Each new platform creates opportunity for a hacker to obtain personally identifiable information (PII) for your child. Educate your child on the dangers of sharing this information online – whether through a picture or post. Even including your location in a post may pose risks, as it alerts criminals to your whereabouts. Encourage your kids to switch their geotagging options off. Going over examples of oversharing online with your child can help them think twice before posting.

Pay attention to privacy policies
The latest game or app may be revealing more of your child’s personal information than you’d like. Read the privacy policies to understand how your child’s personal information will be used, shared, and protected. The same goes for sharing information at schools, doctor’s offices and beyond – understand the potential sources of risk by sharing your child’s personal information. It’s ok to ask why your child’s PII, like Social Security number, is needed before sharing.

Create a conversation around password security
Start a conversation with your kids on the importance of creating long, strong and unique passwords across sites. While opting in to multi-factor authentication when available can help, those additional security questions aren’t foolproof, explains Dan Smith, Director of Product Management, Experian Consumer Services.

“Security questions like your mother’s maiden name or your birthplace can be used against you, especially if you’ve shared that information online,” says Smith. “It all comes back to the importance of creating a strong password.”

Smith encourages, for example, using a quote from a favorite movie, a line from video game dialogue, or a song lyric – especially if you struggle with creating and remembering passwords. To further boost your password security, incorporate unexpected characters like numbers and symbols, and consider abbreviating it or changing it so only you know the formula.

By monitoring your child’s personal information, teaching vigilance on social sites, paying attention to privacy policies, and sharing the importance of a strong password, parents can reduce the risk of their child becoming an identity theft victim.

What other tips do you have for children to stay secure both online and off? Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.