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Kip Tips

How to Protect Your Kids From the Anthem Data Breach

Your child's identity could be at risk. Take these steps now to protect it.

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If you’re a current or former Anthem member, you probably already know that the health insurer was a victim of a cyber attack. And you might have breathed a small sigh of relief when you learned that credit card information wasn’t compromised during the data breach. At least you don’t have to cancel your cards, right?

SEE ALSO: Is Your Identity at Risk?

The truth is, you might have been better off if only card information had been stolen because what the hackers got is potentially much more valuable: full names, birthdays, street addresses and Social Security numbers. “They got your secret sauce,” says Neal O’Farrell, a security and identity theft expert for Credit Sesame. “It’s as good as your DNA to hackers.” Unlike a credit card, you can’t cancel a Social Security number, which puts you at risk of being a lifelong victim, he says. Thieves can use that number to steal your identity and file fraudulent tax returns, rack up debt in your name and more.

What makes matters worse is that you not only have to worry about your personal information falling into the wrong hands but also your children’s if they’re covered under your Anthem policy and their data was compromised. If they’re young, it could be years before they apply for credit and discover that someone has stolen their identity and tainted their credit history.

“Parents should be concerned whenever their child’s information is lost, but it doesn’t mean there’s nothing they can do,” says Becky Frost, senior manager of consumer education for the credit bureau Experian. You will have to jump through a few more hoops to protect your kids than to protect yourself in the aftermath of the Anthem data breach, but it’s worth the effort.

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Check credit reports. Anthem has said it will provide members with free credit monitoring and ID theft protection. But O’Farrell says you should take action now. Check your own credit report, and check to see if credit reports exist in your children’s names. Unless you’ve taken out loans in your children’s names or have added them to one of your lines of credit, credit reports shouldn't exist for your children, Frost says. If they do, that means they could already be victims of identity theft.

You can check your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – for free once a year through Annualcreditreport.com. However, if your child is younger than 13, you’ll have to send a written request to each of the bureaus along with the following information and documentation:

--The child’s legal name, birth date and address.
-- A certified copy of your child’s birth certificate (Frost says you should contact the issuing agency for a certified copy).
-- A copy of your child’s Social Security card.
-- A copy of your driver’s license or government-issued identity card with your current address.
-- A copy of a current utility bill with the same address.

Annualcreditreport.com has more information about requesting a credit report for a minor and the addresses for the three credit bureaus.

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Monitor your kids' credit. If you’re lucky, the Anthem hackers will never use or sell your or your kids’ personal information. But you shouldn’t rely on luck. That’s why you need to monitor your credit reports – not just for the next few months, but regularly from here on out because it could be years before your information is used to steal your identity. Anthem announced February 11 that its members will be able to sign up for free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services starting February 13. Information on how to enroll will be posted at www.anthemfacts.com. If you discover you aren’t satisfied with the services Anthem offers for free, you do have other options.

Sites such as Credit Sesame and Credit Karma offer free credit monitoring, but you have to be 18 to receive this service. All three of the credit bureaus offer credit monitoring and ID theft products. Experian charges $19.95 a month for its Family Secure program, which covers an entire family and will alert you if a credit file has been opened in your child’s name (or yours) and if signs of identity theft have been detected. The Equifax Complete Family Plan provides credit monitoring and ID theft protection for $29.95 a month for two adults and up to four children. TransUnion’s True Identity provides monitoring and ID theft protection (including $1 million in ID theft insurance coverage) for individuals for $9.95 a month. Other services include Identity Guard and TrustedID. Also check to see if your insurer, financial institution or employer offers free or low-cost protection.

Consider a fraud alert or security freeze. A fraud alert means that lenders must take extra precautions to verify your identity before granting credit in your name. A security freeze takes it a step further by preventing credit reporting agencies from releasing your credit report without your consent. This can prevent identity thieves from taking out new credit in your name, even if they have your Social Security number and other personal information.

You can place a security freeze on your credit report through the three bureaus for a fee of $3 to $10, depending on the state where you live. You’ll also have to pay a fee to lift the freeze temporarily if you do apply for credit. O’Farrell says a freeze is a better option for adults than a fraud alert because it automatically blocks most lenders from accessing your credit. However, you can’t place a security freeze or fraud alert on a child’s credit report if he or she doesn’t have one yet. If your child does have a credit report, Frost says you need to consider the child’s age when deciding whether to place an alert or freeze. A freeze might be warranted if the child is young and won’t need to access credit for many years. But a fraud alert, which lasts 90 days (and can be renewed) might be more appropriate for an older child who will be applying for credit or student loans soon.

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Warn your kids about scams. Scammers already have taken advantage of the Anthem data breach by sending out emails that appear to be from the insurer and that instruct recipients to click on a link to receive credit monitoring, according to Anthem. Tell your children who have email accounts not to click on any links or download attachments in emails that appear to be from Anthem. The emails are an attempt to get people to divulge personal information. Anthem also is warning consumers that it’s not calling members and asking for credit card information or Social Security numbers over the phone.

Watch the mail. If your child starts receiving bills, pre-approved credit card offers or Social Security statements in the mail, don’t assume it’s a mistake and toss them in the trash, Frost says. Such letters and statements are usually a sign that your child’s identity has been stolen, she says.

Check your child’s credit report – again – and file a dispute with the credit bureau to remove unauthorized accounts (see How to Fix an Error on Your Credit Report). You also need to file a report with the police that your child has been a victim of identity theft, Frost says. You’ll need a police report to add a victim statement to your child’s credit reports and to help dispute fraudulent charges and accounts. Hang on to any statements your child receives and keep a log of any calls from debt collectors. For more tips on what to do if you or your children become victims of identity theft, visit the Identity Theft Resource Center.