CHILD IDENTITY THEFT
As one of the nation's fastest growing crimes, it has been estimated that 1 in 4 minors may experience identity theft or fraud. Equally shocking is that half of the victims are under age 6 - why is this happening?
Stealing a child's identity is especially lucrative for criminals because the theft often goes
undetected for many years. Sometimes a social security number is stolen shortly after birth, and since credit issuers do not always verify the age of the recipient, the number is used to create a "synthetic identity." A new, pristine credit file is created and accessed for years to obtain credit cards, bank accounts, loans, and utility or cell phone services, rent a place to live, and apply for health insurance or government benefits. Often parents have no idea that a credit file exists and that their child's identity has been stolen until they apply for financial aid for college!
What are the warning signs of Child Identity Theft?
- Numerous pre-approved credit card offers in your child's name (or a slightly different name), especially if your child doesn't have a bank account
- An IRS notice that your child didn't pay income taxes or that your child's social security number was already used on another tax return
- Collection agency calls or bills for products or services never ordered
- Your child is denied a driver's license or government assistance because there is already an account assigned to your child
- Your older child is unable to open a bank account or is denied credit or a loan for college tuition
How can you protect your children?
- Safeguard personal information! Keep Social Security cards locked up and never give out SSN's and other personal information unless it is mandatory - always ask first, and then ask how the information will be protected
- Documents that must be retained should be locked away; everything else containing personal information should be shredded - including credit card solicitations, bank statements, etc.
- Teach your children the risks of sharing personal information, especially their SSN, but also their birth date, address and phone number - this applies to social media and other online sites, but also to school and extracurricular activities
- Keep all your family's devices and accounts protected with strong passwords, anti-virus software and current updates; don't use unsecured Wi-Fi; and never click suspicious links or download unfamiliar software or apps
- Check for a credit report when your child is approaching age 16
- Consider subscribing to third-party services for credit monitoring and/or checking your child's SSN
What if you suspect your child is a victim?
- Check your child's credit report immediately! If there is no report, that is good news - but if your minor child has a credit file, you should notify the Credit Reporting Agencies
- Notify the police and the Federal Trade Commission
- Keep good records and copies of correspondence - it could take years to repair the damage