I was taken aback when I first heard about child identity theft. The fact is, children are increasingly VERY popular targets of identity thieves. This is a crime all parents should be aware of. Did you know that according to the Identity Theft Resource Center, 500,000 children had their identities stolen in 2005? So why do Identity thieves like to target kids? The reason is really simple if you think about it. It is because their information is often readily available and useful for many years: children often don’t discover their identities have been stolen until they grow up and begin trying to get jobs, take out car loans, and obtain mortgages, or apply for their first credit card.
While as parents we pride ourselves on being a responsible, safe, and caring parent. Your child wears a seatbelt, uses a bike helmet, walks when carrying scissors, and eats five servings of vegetables a day. In short, you are doing your best to ensure that your child grows up to be a healthy, happy, well-adjusted adult. Who knew that this job includes safeguarding your children from identity thieves?
Identity thieves target children precisely because few adults are aware that their children are at risk. The thieves typically have years and years to live off your child’s identity before the child grows up and wants to open a checking account or get a job – only to find out that his or her credit rating is a mess. Some signs to look for that might indicate your child has been a victim of identity theft include
- Getting credit card offers in the mail
- Bills for your child arriving in the mail
- Calls from bill collectors
What to do if Your Childs Identity is Stolen?
If you suspect your child has become the victim of an identity thief, follow these steps to determine the extent of the damage and restore your child’s financial identity:
- Get a copy of your child’s credit record. You can request a free copy from the three major credit reporting agencies by going to www.annualcredit report.com or calling 1-877-322-8228. You can also request that a fraud alert be placed on your child’s file, which will prevent identity thieves from opening any more accounts in your child’s name.
- Get a copy of your child’s Social Security statement, which you can obtain at www.ssa.gov/mystatement/ or by calling 1-800-772-1213. This statement will help you determine if anyone has used your child’s Social Security number to get a job or obtain government benefits.
- File a police report. You will likely need a copy of a police report to show creditors.
- Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by using their online complaint form or calling the 1-877-ID-THEFT. The FTC supports law enforcement officials as they track down and stop identity thieves.
- Contact creditors listed on your child’s credit record, notifying them of the situation and asking them to close the account. You will probably need to complete a fraud affidavit for each creditor. The FTC provides a uniform affidavit form, which is available at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/affidavit.pdf .
As you work through these steps, be sure to
- Keep a log of all phone conversations, dates, times, names, phone numbers, and topic of discussion
- Track your time and expenses
- Confirm the results of conversations in writing
- Send correspondence by certified mail, return receipt requested
- Keep copies of all letters and documents you send