Child identity theft: A hidden but real danger
Thieves use children's information for credit fraud, so don't let it go undiscovered.
Chances are you shred or secure any paperwork that contains personally identifying information, such as your Social Security number or birth date. But do you do the same for your children?
You should. More than one million children were victims of identify theft or fraud in 2017. Youngsters' personal information is appealing to thieves who can use it to build a clean credit profile where one doesn't currently exist. Another reason: It takes longer to get caught.
Adults may be actively involved in the credit world, checking statements and scores, but parents don't tend to check their children's credit, so thieves can do more damage over an extended amount of time.
The good news is, with a few simple steps, you can better safeguard your children's personal information and pursue any problems on their behalf.
Many schools and extracurricular programs ask for kids' Social Security numbers and other personally identifying information for them to participate. Ask why they need this information, and whether it's mandatory. If it's required – ask how they will keep the information secured. Then determine whether you're comfortable with that level of protection.
Know warning signs of child identity theft
Receiving mail in a child's name could be a warning sign. Some of those include:
- Collection notices,
- Bills or new credit cards,
- Traffic violation warrants, or
- Jury summons.
Don't request credit reports
Resist the temptation to check for a credit report in your child's name as a preventive measure unless you have a strong suspicion or know for certain that your child's identity has been compromised.
If you suspect fraud you'll also want to contact the FTC to get help measuring the scope of the problem, and then file a report with your local police department. It's possible that a credit freeze could help alleviate the situation in the future.