Honey, where are you?” You hear the parent calling out at Target, or Walmart, or Kroger. Once. Then twice. Panic rushes into her voice. “Please answer me!” We’ve all been there, and some have experienced a family’s worst tragedy, rather than what typically happens – the child pops out from behind a rack of clothing or skips down the grocery aisle to reunite with Mom or Dad.
When a child is missing, it’s critical for law enforcement to swing into action quickly and have up-to-date information. Police appreciate fast access to a current photo of the child, the child’s height and weight, birth date, and even fingerprints if available. An organized child safety kit can be an extremely important tool for law enforcement.
There are legitimate companies that offer safety kits, but when police hear reports of people calling or going door to door asking for valuable, personal information and offering free child safety kits, they are concerned – and rightfully so. Scammers won’t hesitate to prey on families with children. In fact, scammers know that’s a weak spot in any parent’s armor. Families can too easily become the target of fraud, even though they believe they’re taking steps to keep their children safe.
Why use child safety kits to prey on families? Scammers can get their hands on personal information by convincing parents the information they are asking for is critical to keep a child safe. Scammers will then use that personal information to scam families for years or until the scam is discovered. If the scam is discovered, some scammers might use that knowledge to blackmail the family to keep the child’s personal information off the Internet.
Scammers know that adults rarely, if ever, check their child’s credit report, which means they can get away with using a child’s name and information for years. In addition, children’s credit scores are a clean slate, making them an ideal target.
At the Better Business Bureau, we caution parents to never provide personal information about their children to a stranger or any organization that doesn’t absolutely have a need to know, to be wary of unsolicited offers, and to check their child’s credit score once a year.
How to avoid scams involving your children:
• Never give your child’s personal information to a stranger, especially the child’s Social Security number.
• Be wary of free or unsolicited offers for your children from anyone – businesses, nonprofits, or what might appear to be a government agency.
• Take extra precautions to protect your child’s identity. Once a year, check your child’s credit report for signs of fraud at AnnualCreditReport.com. Confirm that your child’s school, doctors, sports teams, and summer camps are aggressively keeping your child’s personal information safe. Watch for red flags, such as bills or invoices mailed to your home in your child’s name.
Importantly, if you or your child has been the victim of identity theft, report your experience on the BBB.org/ScamTracker. The information you share can help other people protect their families from similar schemes.