GREENSBORO, N.C. — One man's trash is another man's treasure, it's a common phrase that usually refers to used sofas, appliances gathering dust, and those jeans that are no longer in style.
But right now, I'm seriously talking about your trash.
If you rip up credit card offers or simply drop medical insurance paperwork in the trash bin, an identity thief has found treasure.
If you're using one of those old strip shredders, you're giving yourself a false sense of security.
2 Wants To Know asked 5th graders at Northern Guilford Elementary to help us show you how easy it is for strip shredders to let you down.
Each group got four documents to piece together. Keep in mind, these kids aren't experts at identifying a 1040 tax form or credit card statement, and they don't have samples to look at.
In 15 minutes, the students had enough pieces together to recognize account numbers, tax documents, and more. This is child's play for an identity thief.
“Believe it or not, it still happens. Your identity from the trash is worth $30,000 to an identity thief. It's so easy for identity thieves to take that, go online and mine a little bit more, and start to put together an identity,” said Lechelle Yates of the Better Business Bureau.
Your trashed information is considered a treasure, but identity thieves really cash in when they get info on kids.
"Typically what will happen is the number will be stolen from a young child. That person is a lot less likely to check credit reports or to have other people check their credit reports. It's not new, but it's growing and it's growing because it's easier to do than it used to be,” said Joseph Steinberg, cyber security expert.
Identity theft is a mess to figure out when you're 45 years old and extra messy when you find out at 18 that someone has been using your information for the last decade to open up credit cards.
2 Wants To Know has two solutions for everyone to protect their identity.
Freeze your credit.
Freezing credit is free and it keeps the bad guys from opening up accounts. It still allows you, the adult, to use your credit cards.
Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788 Atlanta, GA 30348//1-800-685-1111
Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554 Allen, TX 75013//1-888-397-3742
TU Protected Consumer Freeze
P.O. Box 380 Woodlyn, PA 19094//1-800-916-8800
Child Credit Freezes
The first thing you want to do is check to see if your child has a credit report. This will tell you if their identity has already been compromised.
Checking your child’s credit starts online, you will print out and fill out your info as the parent, their info as the kid along with copies of your driver's license...your child's birth certificate, and the child's social security card.
You then will mail it all in. By law, it has to be done that way.
It's not a quick process, but can you imagine your kid turning 18, applying for a school loan, and then finding out someone has been using their credit? It happens.
You want to check and freeze with each credit bureau.
To make sure identity theft doesn’t happen, you can pro-actively freeze your child's credit so no one can open any kind of credit in their name.
According to Experian: There's no reason for most children to have credit reports since it's illegal for anyone under 16 to apply for a loan or credit card in their own name. Fraudulent loan and credit card applications can generate credit reports, however, and by the time you or the child discovers them, they could be full of unpaid accounts.
SHRED YOUR DOCUMENTS FOR FREE
The WFMY News 2 shred is Wednesday, May 3, 2023. Bring three boxes or bags to the Greensboro Coliseum from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. It's free and your documents won't be able to be put back together.