Identity theft can happen to anyone, including children.
Unfortunately, child identity theft often goes unnoticed for years, well after the damage has already been done.
Understanding ID theft
So what is ID theft
? Identity theft occurs anytime a criminal acquires your personal information without your permission. Criminals frequently use this information to commit fraud, such as applying for a loan or opening a new credit card account in your name.
Children may not have bank accounts for thieves to hack, but they can still become victims of identity theft and fraud. For instance, if a thief acquires a minor’s Social Security Number (SSN), he or she can then use it to commit identity fraud. Criminals can acquire a child’s Social Security number (SSN) in a variety of ways, including through a data breach
within a school, government or doctor’s office. Unfortunately, because your child’s personal information passes through many different organizations, it can be hard to know whether it is always being handled securely.
Child ID theft: Warning signs
Because children do not regularly monitor their credit or attempt to open new lines of credit, they may not realize that their identity has been compromised until years after the fact. Here are a few warning signs that could indicate your child is a victim of ID theft:
- He or she receives pre-approved credit card offers through the mail.
- He or she gets a notice from the IRS stating that his/her SSN was used on another tax return.
- He or she receives unexpected bills or statements in the mail.
If you suspect that your child could be a victim, you should act as quickly as possible to begin resolving the situation. Here are the steps you should take to help a child ID theft victim:
- Contact each of the three national credit bureaus and inform them of the situation. Ask them to remove any accounts or collection notices under the child’s name.
- Place an initial fraud alert with one of the bureaus (each bureau is required to notify the other two).
- Place a credit freeze on your child’s account.
- Contact the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) to report the incident.
- Follow up with any bank, creditors or businesses where the information was used fraudulently.
Child identity theft protection
Fortunately, there are a few ways you can help protect your child’s identity from being compromised. Some proivders offer identity theft protection
services for minors, such as LifeLock Junior™. These services include proactive features, such as credit file verification and black market website surveillance. In addition to the help of an identity theft protection company, there are a few precautions you can take on your own. The most important thing you can do is be cautious about who you share your child’s personal information with. Disclose his or her personal information only when it is absolutely necessary.