Data Breach Affects More Than 300,000 Canadian Children

21 January 2016

While many adults are aware of their risk of identity theft, they rarely consider that their children are equally vulnerable.

A recent data breach at electronic toy and education company VTech has now brought this issue to the front of many parents’ minds, as hackers managed to gain access to data from more than 10 million customer accounts, including 6.3 million children’s user profiles worldwide. In Canada, more than 237,000 adult profiles and over 316,000 kids’ profiles were compromised, making it the fourth largest consumer data breach to date.

The attack focused on the Learning Lodge app, which allows customers to download apps, games and educational content to VTech products. The affected database contained customer names, email addresses, passwords, IP addresses, mailing addresses and download histories, as well as kids’ profile information such as names, genders, dates of birth, profile pictures and chat logs, details first reported by tech publication Motherboard.

While children’s information may not immediately appear as valuable as their parents’, experts say it is more than enough to put kids at risk of identity theft.

“Even though there was no parent credit card information stolen, criminals can take that basic biographical information and pretend they are the child to commit identity theft,” said Avner Levin, director of the Privacy and Cybercrime Institute at Ryerson University, according to Global News.

In some ways, targeting children for identity theft can end up paying off greater for fraudsters. Kids’ credit accounts are typically blank slates that no one is likely to check until they go to college, giving ID thieves greater flexibility in borrowing as well as a longer window before their activity is detected. Even if they are targeted at a young age, damage to children’s accounts carry with them as they grow up, forcing them to deal with poor credit even as early as their first credit or loan application.

Because the potential for damage remains, parents must take care when sharing their children’s information online, even if it does not include specific financial data. This means taking a moment before signing kids up for online accounts that require personal information, even if they are required for certain toys or digital games.

“Parents do a lot of posting and sharing of information about their kids online without putting a lot of thought to it,” Levin told Global News. “You are posting a lot of information about your children that will have an impact on their lives and who they are as they grow up.”

To best protect your kids, consider signing them up for a child identity theft protection service. Programs like Identity Guard kID Sure can monitor your child’s credit, alerting you if they detect certain activity that may suggest someone is using your child’s information as their own.