One of the first internet safety lesson kids learn is never post personal information online; this includes full name, location and birth date. This rule is to keep them safe from identity thieves as well as snooping strangers. But before their first birthday, a child’s personal information may already exist online. When parents register for baby gifts, they are often sharing more than their preference for baby bumpers and bobby pillows.
Recently, a friend asked me to take a look at these popular online baby registries. He was buying a gift for a friend and was surprised by the amount of information posted. He found registries that contained a child’s full name, birth date, location, the parents’ full name and often the grandparents’ full name. All this information was public and easy to find. Last week, I spent some time investigating online baby registries.
Public Baby Registries
First, I checked out Babies”R”Us. Signing up requires a parent to enter their full name, location and their child’s arrival date. Parents can also add a maiden name, grandparents’ names as well as a personal message. Parents often use the personal message to announce their baby’s arrival by posting their child’s full name and actual birth date. These registries remain online for a year after the arrival date unless the parent calls Babies”R”Us to delete the registry.
Searching the Babies”R”Us registry, I could find an entry containing all of this information within a few clicks. Anyone can search the registry by just entering the first two letters of a last name. Enter “PA” and you can see 200 entries across the US. You can narrow a search by entering a city or first name. Within 2 searches, I had a registry with a child’s full name, birth date, city, state, parent’s name, maiden name and grandparent’s names.
Other baby registries – including Amazon, Walmart and Target – displayed less information. Usually, the public fields were limited to parent’s names, location and the child’s arrival date. Again, parents could post additional information in a public message. This is where parents often added their child’s full name. Target and Amazon were the only ones I found that allowed for a private registry where only invited friends and family could view it.
“Why should it be private?”
I saw this question quite a few times on baby forums. When you are preparing for a new arrival, the last thing on your mind is child identity theft. With identity theft on the rise, parents should be cautious about sharing their child’s personal information. Recently I co-hosted a tweet chat with CSID and Lookout Social. One of the topics was how criminals mine social media accounts for personal information. I asked Joe Ross, President of CSID about the rise in child identity theft.
“Children today can have a digital footprint before they are even born. When parents post sonogram pictures to Facebook, cyber criminals become aware of a fresh identity on which to prey. In a poll by Posterista, it takes parents 57.9 minutes on average to share their newborns’ first photo on a social media site. Identity thieves are increasingly taking advantage of children, as most children’s Social Security numbers and personal information remain unused until they turn 18, leaving years for thieves to do serious damage. In this day and age, it is more important than ever for parents to be aware of the risks associated with child identity theft. CSID surveyed parents last year, and even though parents are aware and concerned about this issue, more than half are not currently taking measures to prevent misuse of their child’s information.”
It is more than identity theft. Cybercriminals can use this information for targeted phishing attacks. The information provided here, such as grandparents names, are also the answers to popular security questions. Most parents don’t realize how valuable this data is to a criminal.
If you are registering online for baby gifts, keep your information to a minimum. Your friends and family can probably find the registry using just your initials. Do not include your child’s full name. Remember, after the gifts are open delete the baby registry. If possible, use the available privacy settings. If the company you want to register with doesn’t allow for private accounts, send them an email. New parents have enough to worry about without having to fret about someone stealing their child’s information.
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