How Your Child’s Photo Could Be Used to Steal Their Identity

One of the biggest advantages of social media is its ability to foster communication between people all over the world. If you have family or friends living across the country or even on an entirely different continent, social media can be an excellent way to keep them updated on your life, despite the distance. In particular, many parents use social media to share photos of their children, documenting their growth and immortalizing every adorable moment for loved ones to gush over. 


However, sharing your child’s photos online doesn’t come without its risks. Unfortunately, some predators have found ways to take these photos and use them to steal children’s identities. While it may not seem like uploading a few photos of your kids here and there presents much of a danger, in some cases, it may only take a handful of photos for someone to be able to successfully steal your child’s identity. This can create a host of problems for your child later in life, so it’s important to understand what digital identity theft is and how to prevent it from happening to your family. 


What is digital identity theft?

Digital identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information — such as your name, address, phone number, date of birth, etc. — without your permission to commit fraud by applying for a loan or a credit card in your name, leasing an apartment or house, and accessing your health insurance, among other crimes. 


There are several different kinds of digital identity theft, including identity cloning, social media impersonation, tax identity theft, medical identity theft, financial identity theft, and digital kidnapping, which is when people steal photos of a child and post the photos on their own social media accounts, acting as if the child is their own (Bitdefender, n.d.; Shenfield, 2023). Child identity theft is especially prevalent, and it can have a significant, long-term effect on the victim. According to a Carnegie Mellon study of 40,000 children, one in 10 minors is affected by child identity theft (Bitdefender, n.d.; Power, 2011). 


How does digital identity theft occur?

  • Sharenting 

One of the largest contributors to child identity theft is the phenomenon of “sharenting.” Sharenting refers to parents sharing photos, videos, and information about their children online. Parents share an average number of 300 photos of their children online each year; this oversharing is part of what makes child identity theft so easy for fraudsters. By 2030, an estimated two-thirds of all identity theft cases will be linked to online photo sharing by parents (Little Black Book, 2023; Shenfield, 2023). Parents don’t often realize how dangerous sharing any information about their children online can be, but any content that you post about your children can make them more vulnerable to child identity theft.


  • Data Collection

Cybercriminals often use information shared by parents on public social media accounts to gather information on children that they can then use to commit fraud. Key pieces of information that these fraudsters look for include your child’s full name, age, and date of birth. Even if this information isn’t explicitly shared on social media, fraudsters may be able to guess it based on the content you post. For example, if you post a picture of your child to celebrate their seventh birthday, criminals can use this to calculate your child’s date of birth. They can then use this information to apply for government documents and credit cards, lease or buy property, and acquire loans in your child’s name (Acton, 2020). 


  • AI and Deepfakes

Your child’s digital footprint could even be used to create deepfakes using AI. New developments in AI are making it possible for these criminals to mimic your child’s physical appearance, as well as their voice, with ever-increasing accuracy. Through the use of this technology, predators can turn innocent photos of your child into pornographic content (Saliba, 2023). 


  • Fingerprint Theft 

One of the scariest ways cybercriminals can steal your child’s identity is by using photos of their fingerprints to create replicas that can be used to access vital information. Cameras have become so advanced and clear that photos taken within two feet of the subject in which their fingertips are exposed can be used by hackers to outline their fingerprints. Then, the photo is enhanced and printed using a laser or 3D printer. Using that raised print, a criminal could potentially gain access to the contents of your phone, as well as your bank account (Pineda, 2017). 


How to prevent your child’s identity from being stolen

  • Look out for warning signs of identity theft

Digital identity theft can be difficult to recognize, especially when it happens to children. Often, victims don’t become aware that their identity has been stolen until they try to open a bank account and discover someone has incurred massive debt in their name. 


To catch identity theft early, here are some red flags to look out for (Bitdefender, n.d.):

  • Bills from services you don’t use 
  • Medical bills from services you never received 
  • Unusual transactions on your bank statement 
  • Collection agencies looking to settle debts you haven’t incurred 
  • Notifications that your information has been compromised in a data breach


If you notice any strange activity on your bank statements or fear that your personal information has been compromised, make sure to document any anomalies, change your passwords, and contact your bank immediately to reduce further harm. 


  • Increase your online literacy

Parents’ lack of awareness of the security threats posed by sharing information about their children online is one of the main issues that contributes to the prevalence of digital identity theft. Therefore, education is the first step in preventing identity theft (Little Black Book, 2023). To protect your children from predators, you should familiarize yourself with privacy settings on the social media platforms you use to see how you can limit access to your account and keep your information private. 


  • Be mindful of what information you give out online

Regardless of if your account is private, online fraudsters can still find ways to get their hands on the information you share publicly. Thus, even if your account is only viewable to close friends and family whom you trust, you should still think twice before sharing anything that might make your child vulnerable to cybercrime if it falls into the wrong hands. 


Never share your child’s full name or birth date online, and before posting any photos or videos of your child, consider whether or not you want to share this information about your child online before they can consent (Acton, 2020). 


  • Use a photo monitoring service to track photos of your child online

One of the most insidious parts of digital identity theft is that the victims often don’t know it’s happening to them until it’s too late and they’re forced to deal with the consequences. When it comes to digital identity theft, the sooner you know your photos are being stolen or misused, the better. ImageShield is a photo monitoring service that helps people protect the photos they share online from being abused. With ImageShield, you can find out whether the photos you’ve shared on Facebook, Instagram, and elsewhere are being used in a way they shouldn’t be.


Get your free ImageShield report today on the security of the photos you’ve shared on Facebook and Instagram. Visit our blogs for more information on media literacy and how to protect yourself and your family from photo abuse.


Acton, B. (2020, December 21). How Oversharing About Your Kids on Social Media Can Lead to Identity Theft. IdentityIQ. Retrieved November 22, 2023, from

Pineda, N. (2017, February 27). How ID thieves could steal your identity from a selfie. ABC7 New York. Retrieved November 22, 2023, from

Power, R. (2011). Child Identity Theft: New Evidence Indicates Identity Thieves are Targeting Children for Unused Social Security Numbers. Carnegie Mellon CyLab. Retrieved November 22, 2023, from

Saliba, Emmanuelle. (2023, July 28). Sharing photos of your kids? Maybe not after you watch this deepfake ad. ABC News. Retrieved November 22, 2023, from

Shenfield, T. (2023, July 6). Should You Stop Sharing Pictures Of Your Children On Social Media? Advanced Psychology Services. Retrieved November 22, 2023, from,child%20to%20facial%20recognition%20software..

What is Digital Identity Theft? How to Spot, React and Report It. (n.d.). Bitdefender. Retrieved November 22, 2023, from

Why Deutsche Telekom Used AI and Deepfake to Steal an Identity. (2023, September 8). Little Black Book. Retrieved November 22, 2023, from

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels:


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