ISSUE: Online Learning, Hacking, and Childrens’ Identity Theft

By: William Sikkens
Host, User Friendly 2.0 Saturday’s at 5:00 p.m.

This week’s Tech Wednesday comes from a listener question:  With online learning becoming the norm and my child’s use of social media, as a parent do I need to be worried about identity theft of my child?

In short, yes.

Identity theft can range from inconvenient to dangerous.  When it happens to us countless hours are spent changing credit card and bank account numbers, passwords, and related needs to try and secure personal information.  As adults we are aware that there are bad actors that will do anything to separate your and your money.

What about the innocents – our children?

According to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) a child’s social security number can be used by identity thieves to apply for government benefits, open bank and credit card accounts, apply for a loan or utility service, or rent a place to live.

During normal times many schools require personal, and sometimes, sensitive information.  With the move to online learning the use of personal information is also moving online more than anytime in the past.

It is important to understand how your child’s identity is used, and you need to take the same precautions  that you have for your own identity with your child’s information.  It is also important to teach your child not to give out passwords and other information online.   Even if the person appears to be someone you or your child knows in the online community, things aren’t always as they seem.

The same steps you take are important for your child.  Teach them to use strong passwords which contain letters, numbers, and symbols.  Do not use the same password for on-line learning and other accounts.   Keep social media and on-line learning separate.


There are warning signs that can tip you off that someone is misusing your childs’ personal information.  The Federal Trade Commission says to look out for these examples:

  • You or your child might be turned down for benefits because the benefits are being paid to another account using your child’s social security number.
  • You or your child receives a notice from the IRS saying the child didn’t pay income taxes, or that the child’s Social Security number was used on another tax return.
  • You or your child gets collection calls or bills for products and/or services you didn’t receive.

If you think your child’s information is at risk, then check a credit report under your child’s name from or a credit bureau.  Ask the bureau for a manual search of the child’s file. The credit bureaus may require copies of the child’s birth or adoption certificate, the child’s Social Security card, or the parent/guardian’s government-issued identification card (or other documents proving the aduit is the child’s legal guardian), and proof of address.  This can be a utility bill or credit card or insurance statement.

If you find your child is a victim of identity theft it is important to try to repair the damage.  Contact the companies where fraud occurred.  Contact the company’s fraud department and ask them to close the account and send you a letter confirming your child isn’t liable.  If needed explain your child is a minor.  You may need to provide a copy of their birth certificate.

Consider a Child Credit Freeze.  You can freeze a child’s credit until they are old enough to use it.

Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission.   You can do this online at or by phone at 877-ID-THEFT.

The FTC provides a worksheet with all the steps and information you need.  This can be found at

Why is it important to do this?  Because your child’s future of being able to buy a car, a house, get health insurance, get educational loans, and some jobs require good credit.

William (Bill) Sikkens has been an on-air technology expert since 2014. With an expertise in I.T., cyber security and software design he has had more than 20 years’ experience with advanced technology. Sikkens conceptualizes and designs custom applications for many professional industries from health care to banking and has the ability to explain the details in a way all can understand.  Article edited by Gretchen Winkler, who along with Jeremy Winkler are the co-hosts of User Friendly 2.0 here on The Answer Saturday’s at 5:00 p.m.

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Got a technology question or comment for Bill? Follow him on Twitter @sikkensw