How to protect your child's credit from data hackers

When you hear of identity theft you think of adults, but cyber risk experts say toddlers and teens are equally good targets. But there are three things you can do to make sure their credit is protected.

Chris Sherban, a photographer here at FOX 2, says he received a letter address to his daughter saying her data had been compromised. The thing is -- she's 3 years old.

"I didn't think anything could be done with a 3 year old's (social security number), what are you going to do with it? She's only three," Sherban said.

It turns out there's a danger, too. Kids' social security numbers are being sold as used. The bad guys simply edit the other information, keep the social security number, and skate by, opening up credit using children's identities and ultimately putting them at risk down the road.

"Worrying about her being in debt at 17-18 years old, somebody stealing her (social security number) and ringing up thousands of dollars on her credit before she had a chance to build it herself," Sherban said.

David Derigiotis is a cyber-security expert with Burns and Wilcox.

"For someone like Chris, you have to understand that as soon as you have a child, as soon as you enter them into the medical system, their information, their social security number, their data is going to be publically accessible somewhere," he said.

Child or not, if a social security number gets into the wrong hands, the danger is real.

"It's telling them that the health information was accessed. We don't know if it was extracted, but ransomware is something that's happening to so many organizations all over the world and that's exactly what we saw with that letter. This medical billing services company experienced a ransomware attack, so the data was touched," Derigiotis said.

He says the only way to know if the data has been touched is to call the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian or TransUnion.

"Then you have to conduct a credit freeze for that minor. So they're a protected individual -- anyone under the age of 16 is considered a protected consumer. You have to go through the process and each website has its own set of instructions, but it's all done by mail. You can't do this stuff online. You have to prove that you're the guardian or the father, mother of that child," Derigiotis said.

There's a PIN that can be used down the road to unlock the credit, so one day Evelyn can use a credit card, buy a car or rent an apartment.