Are you a "sharent?" How social media could put your kids at risk

By  | 

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Parents love to show off their kids online, but all those cute stories and funny videos could be putting your family at risk.

"Sharenting" is a term used to describe the overuse of social media when is comes to parents posting about their kids. While it may seem harmless, Denise Groene with the Better Business Bureau says scammers could be using those posts to build identity profiles of their children.

"If you're posting about their birthday, it's not hard for information to get into the wrong hands," Groene said. "Now, somebody knows the birth date of you child and if they do a little bit more digging they might be able to find their social security number, which in turn they could open up accounts in your child's name."

Adults typically find out if their identity is stolen pretty quickly. However, since children don't have traditional bank accounts and lines of credit. It could be years before anybody notices theirs.

"By then a lot of damage could be done to your child's credit score and it's going to take some time to clean it up," Groene said.

The sky is the limit as to what all could be fraudulently connected to their social security number. Bogus traffic tickets could keep them from getting their license or passing a background check for a job. Open and unpaid lines of credit could keep them from getting a student loan or getting approved for an apartment.

Thankfully, Groene says there are steps that you can take to prevent your children from facing these unforeseen foes.

"One thing that you can do as a parent to help protect your child from becoming a victim of identity theft is putting a freeze on your child's credit bureau reports," Groene suggested.

The three major credit monitoring agencies - Equifax, TransUnion and Experian - all offer services that freeze your child's information. However, the process can be time-consuming and and require lots of documentation for both you and your child.

Groene says a less drastic approach is to take a look at who is seeing your posts.

"Create a separate group that's more close immediate friends and family that you know wouldn't share that information and want to see those photos of your children," she said.

According to Consumer Reports, the youngest identity theft victim was just one month old. Bottom line, if your child has a social security number, their identity can be stolen.

Experts say to keep in mind that nothing online is completely private - and it's permanent. Before you post, think about whether it should be part of your child's digital footprint.