'Free child safety kits' could compromise your child's identity, BBB says
The Better Business Bureau says fraudsters are targeting families and using "child safety kits" to gather the personal information of children. (File)
CALGARY -- Scammers have cooked up a new way to access personal information, this time from Canada's most vulnerable population.
According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Scam Tracker, fraudsters posing as child safety experts are offering "free child safety kits" to parents as a way to protect their children from becoming victims of crime.
However, by responding to these organizations, the BBB says families are unwittingly putting their kids in danger.
Usually, parents are contacted over the phone, by email or social media by someone who claims to be offering the kits, free of charge, to members of the community.
In order to convince victims, the agencies say police and safety officials recommend all parents keep a kit that contains up-to-date pictures of their child, the child's height, weight, birthdate, fingerprints and even a strand of their hair.
The BBB says police do recommend parents catalog that information, but the scammers often insist on more personal information in order for their kits to be properly processed.
Some of the more sensitive information includes:
- Their full name
- Social Insurance Number (SIN)
There are even reports from parents who say scammers sometimes want to meet the child in person at their home.
Parents should never share their child's personal information with strangers, the BBB says.
"Children are more likely to have their identities stolen than adults," says Shawna-Kay Thomas, BBB communications specialist, in a release. "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."
Thomas adds a child's credit scores are also a clean slate, which makes them a very inviting target.
In order to protect your children's identities from being used by fraudsters, the BBB recommends parents:
- Never share personal information with anyone they don't know, especially their SIN.
- Be careful with unsolicited offers because legitimate businesses will not contact you "out of the blue." Government institutions generally send mail before attempting to contact you by phone.
- Take proper precautions, including monitoring your child's credit report annually to watch for signs of fraud.
Thomas says anyone who's discovered their child has become a victim of a scam should contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre immediately.
"They should also put a credit freeze on your child's credit report. This will prevent any lender from accessing the credit reports or scores as part of a credit application," she said. "No one can apply for a new credit without lifting the freeze."
She says there are no reports of the scam taking place in southern Alberta, but people have been caught in other regions across North America.
"The (BBB) issues alerts so that our consumers are aware and not caught off guard by these emails, phone calls or ads. Our aim is not to have a victim in these cases."
The Calgary Police Service says parents always need to do everything they can to protect their children's personal information and understand how the details are being used when they do have to share it with agencies.
"Doing an online search for an official and secure website, phone number, street address and customer reviews can help determine the legitimacy of the company and its product or service," officials said. "Don’t give in to pressure or scare tactics. If someone is pushing you to make a quick decision, or trying to scare you into making one, it could be a red flag."
The CPS does not currently partner with, or endorse, any companies that offer child safety kits.
More information about how to protect yourself from fraud is available on the BBB's website.