PROTECTING CHILDRENS’ FUTURES
More than one million children were victims of identity fraud or identity theft in 2018. For some, their personal information was acquired through a data breach. Others became victims when their Social Security number or other personal information was accessed by a relative, a family friend, a caregiver or a stranger. Regardless of how children become victims of identity theft, the consequences can be devastating.
Children’s identities are often considered more valuable than adults’ because young children have a clean slate. A fraudster can apply for credit or take out loans and go undetected for several years. The fraud may not be discovered until children become old enough to apply for their own credit cards, take out loans or try to rent their first apartment.
Synthetic Identity Theft
A child’s information can also be used in what’s known as “synthetic identity theft.” This occurs when fake identities are created using information from different people or false information. It can also include real Social Security numbers.
Prevention can go a long way in keeping your child’s identity and credit safe. Keep your child’s documents in a safe place. This includes your child’s Social Security card, birth certificate, medical insurance card, any legal documents and passport.
Don’t share your child’s personal information unless it’s absolutely necessary. Ask whether your child’s doctor needs the full Social Security number or if you could provide the last four digits. If you must provide it to a school or bank, ask how the information will be protected and who can access it.
As your child grows older, talk about online privacy and security, and set rules for what information cannot be shared online. Coach them so they can politely refuse to share personal information online or in person.
MONITORING A MINOR'S CREDIT
Because identity theft has become so prominent, businesses exist specifically to monitor credit history based on anyone’s Social Security Number (SSN). A parent or guardian may sign up a child for this service through a credit bureau or financial institution, or they can download any number of online apps. Although there are some free apps, most monitoring services charge a monthly fee.
A parent or guardian can also order a child’s credit report annually from the three major credit bureaus at no charge. Typically, a child under the age of 18 does not have a credit report so “no credit history found” is a good thing. Checking credit reports annually will show if anything changes.
If a young child does have a credit history, this may be a red flag that someone else is using their identity. If a credit report is found, review it carefully and notify credit bureaus of any fraud.
Security Freeze is a Convenient Tool
Alternately, a parent may choose to simply freeze the child’s credit after the initial check. Security freezes are available for children under 16 years of age for little to no fee. This tool prevents access to the credit report by anyone. If someone applies for credit when the credit is already frozen, a notification is sent. This notice is a red flag if the child didn’t initiate the application.
Other Red Flags
A parent or guardian may also be alerted of a potential identity theft issue at tax time if someone has used their child’s SSN to file a fraudulent tax return. Also, the receipt of pre-approved credit card offers by mail could be another red flag that someone may be trying to use their identity.
The bottom line is that active monitoring helps detect identity theft as soon as possible, reducing any long-term effects, while helping to speed up the restoration process. Protect your child’s future by monitoring their credit now.
PROTECTING A MINOR'S CREDIT -- WHAT TO WATCH FOR
- Notification of medical or financial record breaches
- Lost documents such as a Social Security card, birth certificate, insurance card, etc.
- The existence of a credit history in children under the age of 18
- Notification that someone has tried to access frozen credit
- Receipt of pre-approved credit card applications
- Notices from the IRS or State Department of Revenue regarding taxes filed
OTHER RESOURCES: Check if you have an account that has been compromised in a data breach.Learn More