Scammers are offering "free child safety kits" to parents in order to obtain sensitive information that can be used to steals kids' identities, the Better Business Bureau warned Monday.
According to the BBB, recent reports indicate there has been an uptick in this type of scam — and parents need to be alert.
Here's how the scam works. A scammer will contact you over the phone, through social media or by email, saying they are someone who is offering free child safety kits to all the kids in your community. They will then say police and safety officials recommend parents keep this type of kit on hand for their children in case of an emergency, such as if your child goes missing. The kit, they say, should contain current photos of the child, the kid's height, weight, birthdate and fingerprints, and a strand of their hair. And while that part of the pitch is true, the "free child safety kits" they are offering you are not.
The scammer will most likely say that to receive your kit, you need to tell them sensitive information about your child, including their full name, address, birthdate, and Social Security or Social Insurance number. Some parents have even reported that the person who contacted them said that meeting the child in person at their home was a requirement, the BBB says.
The scammer's goal? To steal your child's identity using the information you've provided, the BBB warns.
"If you give up your child’s personal information, they may become a victim of identity theft," the BBB says. "Children are more likely to have their identities stolen than adults. Scammers know that people 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 before being found out. In addition, children’s credit scores are a clean slate, making them an ideal target."
So how do you avoid falling victim to this scam or similar ones? The BBB offers the following tips:
- Never give your child’s personal information to a stranger. Be especially careful with your child’s Social Security number.
- Be wary of unsolicited offers. Legitimate businesses and organizations won’t contact you out of the blue without first getting your permission. Government institutions will generally contact you by mail before making phone calls.
- Take precautions to protect your child’s identity. Check your child’s credit report annually for signs of fraud at annualcreditreport.com . Make sure your child’s school, doctor’s office, little league team, etc. will keep your child’s personal information safe if you opt to give it to them. Keep an eye out for red flags, such as bills or invoices mailed to your home in your child’s name.
If you or your child has been the victim of identity theft, report your experience to the BBB's Scam Tracker.