ID THEFT 101
Child Identity Theft
While you may have learned to the best strategies for identity protection like to protect your Social Security number and not to disclose personal information over the Internet or phone, identity thieves are increasingly targeting a more vulnerable victim—your children.
Because they have no credit history or debts, children are attractive targets for identity thieves and scam artists looking for a clean credit report.
It's more important than ever to take steps to protect against identity theft, even for your children. In 2011, more than 19,000 child identity theft complaints were reported to the Federal Trade Commission, a significant increase from the 6,000 cases reported in 2003.
As a parent, it's important you know how to take steps to protect your children's personal information to prevent them from becoming victims of this fast-growing crime.
What is child identity theft?
Child identity theft most commonly occurs when a thief gets a hold of a minor's Social Security number or other personal information, like date of birth, address, or health insurance number, and uses it to apply for credit, get a job, obtain a driver's license, use a family's health insurance benefits, or apply for government benefits.
While professional criminals search for Social Security numbers that have not been used to acquire credit in order to steal a child's identity, relatives or family friends with access to a child's personal information can also be offenders.
Victims of child identity theft can face lasting consequences—they can be denied employment, housing, loans, or other types of credit, and they may also confront problems with the IRS or be victims of criminal identity theft.
How do you know if your child's identity has been stolen?
If you are not proactive about identity protection, child identity theft can go undetected for years and may not be discovered until your child is rejected when renting a first apartment or applying for a first credit card.
The first sign of child identity theft may come in the form of mail. Since your child has no credit report or financial identity, a red flag should go up if your child receives pre-approval for credit, a credit application, collection notices, or a Social Security earnings statement.
What should you do if your child is a victim of identity theft?
- Report the case to the Federal Trade Commission, which places a priority on child identity theft.
- File a police report with the department that has jurisdiction in your case.
- Contact the fraud department at all of the companies where the thief has opened accounts so they can be closed. Provide proof that the accounts in your child's name are fraudulent.
- Submit a written request and a copy of the police report to the three nationwide credit reporting agencies and request a copy of the information in your child's file.
- Contact all credit issuers or collection agencies on the credit report.
- Ask the credit issuer or the credit reporting agencies to remove all accounts, application inquiries, and collection notices from your child's credit report.
- Provide copies of all documents obtained to the police working on the case.
- If your child might face tax issues because of a stolen Social Security number, contact the IRS's Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490.
How can you take steps to prevent your child from becoming a victim of identity theft?
- Keep all documents with sensitive personal information in a secure location.
- Consider a credit monitoring service that includes your children, like the Equifax Complete Family Plan, which creates a blank credit file with your child's Social Security number and locks the account until the child turns 18.
- Don't disclose your child's Social Security number over the phone or Internet.
- Question all requests for your child's Social Security number.
- Educate your children about sharing their personal information, especially on the Internet.