Identity theft is nothing new. But with so much of our personal information stored electronically these days, and the recent rise of hacks and breaches, identity theft continues to be a growing concern.
Of particular importance today is child identity theft. A child’s identity is very attractive to criminals because it provides a basically clean slate. They can take a child’s social security number, link it to someone else’s name and birth date, and create a brand spanking new identity for someone who probably doesn’t deserve it (but will pay top dollar for it on the black market).
That person can then use the false identity to open up credit cards, purchase vehicles, apply for federal benefits, get a new driver’s license, even buy a house. And when they don’t make the payments, your child is the one that suffers.
In fact, recent studies have indicated that close to one in ten children in America has had their social security number used by another person. Even worse, close to one third of these cases are by a family member trying to use the child’s identity to get around their own bad credit. Download the research report here.
It often takes years before the identity theft is recognized, usually when your child first applies for a driver’s license or checking account. By then, your child’s identity may have accumulated thousands of dollars of debt or criminal charges linked to the stolen social security number.
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This damage can be undone, but it takes a lot of time and effort. It’s much better to stay on top of your child’s identity from an early age. This article will point out some of the warning signs to watch for that indicate your child’s identity may have been compromised… and what to do if it actually occurs.
Child ID Theft Warning Signs
• Receiving pre-approved credit card offers in the mail in your child’s name
• Receiving statements from unfamiliar banks and credit cards, or other financial records in your child’s name
• Getting calls from collection companies for debts and your child’s name
• Being told by the IRS you cannot claim your child as a dependent on your taxes because they have a full time job
• Receiving a summons for your child to appear in court or a warrant for your child’s arrest
If you suspect your child’s identity may be compromised, get into action fast.
• Contact the three credit bureaus. If your child has no credit report, that’s a good thing. There shouldn’t be anything there until they’re old enough to apply for credit for themselves.
• Request a copy of your own credit report too. If your child’s identity was compromised, there’s a good chance yours might have been too. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com to request a free copy of your credit report. You are entitled to a free copy of each of your three credit reports once a year.
• Keep a journal of all communications with the credit bureaus and any credit card companies or banking institutions. It can be a long process to undo any damage that may have occurred and you’ll want to keep track of all the who’s, what’s and when’s.
• File a police report with your local police department. Having a police report on file provides additional protections when it comes to the fraud alerts that you can place on your child’s credit report.
• File an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission at insert website here.
• If you receive credit card offers in the mail in your child’s name, contact the bank offering the card and have your child removed from their mailing list, being sure to explain that your child is a minor. Then shred the offer before you throw it away.
3 Things you can do starting today to better protect your child’s identity.
• Guard your child’s social security number carefully. Before putting your child’s SSN on any form, ask if it’s really necessary. It often isn’t. Sometimes all they need is the last 4 digits.
• When you set up your child’s first bank account, ensure that it is a joint account with your name on it too. That way, any transactions or communications must go through you first as the adult associated with the account.
• Make sure you monitor your child’s internet, email, and social media accounts. Make it a non-negotiable that you have access to the username and password at all times. As they get older and prove they have responsible Internet habits, you can allow them more privacy at your discretion.
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This information is intended for informational and educational purposes only and not as legal advice. If you have concerns about your credit report, harassment, identity theft, illegal collections activity, garnishments, or property liens, you should consult a attorney who specializes in consumer rights and defense.