The Facts About Child Identity Theft
You may believe identity theft only happens to adults with established credit and full bank accounts. Think again. Identity theft occurs when someone steals a social security number. But, unfortunately, the protection for children identity theft isn’t in place as much as for adults. Understanding how it happens and what to look for will help parents protect their children’s identity.
Criminals will steal a social security number and create a synthetic or false identity by masking the date of birth, making the social security number be one of an older person. The person stealing the identity could be someone who knows the child or a person who could be a stranger. By the time the child is old enough to be able to get credit, they have a bad credit history and may not qualify for loans or credit cards. Worse, if the person stealing the identity ends up with a bad record, that will show on the number. It’s possible to take until the child turns eighteen or older to discover the stolen identity problem.
How to Check on Your Child’s Identity
The same way you check on your own, run a credit report to check if their number is being used illegally. If a child under the age of eighteen has a credit history at all, it is a sign something is wrong and its possibly identity theft.
Preventing Child Identity Theft
- Don’t share your child’s social security number with anyone unless sharing the number is necessary. Many places such as physician offices will ask for this though it’s just an option. Often, the blank for social security number can be left blank. Always ask why they need the social security number and only give it if it’s fully required.
- Know that opening a bank account in your child’s name opens the door for identity theft. Always set up a joint account with an adult. Make sure the child’s name does not appear on the mail or correspondence. Monitor all mail coming into your home and if you see your child’s name on anything such as credit card pre-approvals take the measures to opt out of such marketing.
- Don’t allow children to sign up for online accounts which may ask for addresses and phone numbers. Just like with bank accounts, its best if the parent signs up for the child and keep the account in the adult’s name.
- The same goes for social media accounts. Parents should be vigilant about protecting their child online and if the child wants their own account, the parent should sign up for the account under their (the parent’s) name and not the child’s name. You should always password protect accounts and keep close check on your child’s accounts, even if the accounts are in your name.
What to do if Your Childs Identity is Stolen?
Should you become suspicious and suspect your child has become the victim of an identity thief, consider following 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 https://www.ssa.gov/ 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 https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/