Child identity theft: What you need to know
Last updated: January 1
You've likely heard the warnings about identity theft, but did you know that your child may also be at risk for having their identity stolen?
The credit reporting agency Transunion says that child identity theft appeals to fraudsters because it can go undetected for years. For example, a child may not find out that their Social Security number has been compromised until they try to open a bank account or apply for a line of credit on their own, when they're older.
But, childhood identity theft have long-term financial implications. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says credit report errors due to fraud may affect your child's ability to take out student loans, buy a car or rent an apartment. If you have children, here's some information to consider about child identify theft that may help protect your kids.
Warning signs of child identity theft
How would you know if your child's identity had been stolen? Watching for the following red flags may help alert you to the issue, according to the FTC:
- Your child receives a bill or a collection agency call. Don't dismiss this as a case of mistaken identity. A bill that is addressed to your child or call from a collection agency can be a sign of identity theft.
- Your child receives credit card offers in the mail. If you've received one or more unsolicited credit card offers in your child's name, it could indicate someone is using their information fraudulently, according to Transunion.
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) contacts you about your child. If the IRS informs you that your toddler hasn't paid his income taxes, this is a warning sign that someone may be posing as your son or daughter.
Tips to help protect your child's identity
Identity protection for your child starts with some privacy precautions. According to the FTC, these tips may help reduce your child's risk for identity theft:
- See if your child has a credit report. Check three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and Transunion. Credit reporting agencies typically do not keep a report on file for minors. If there is a report, then there's a good chance that your child's identity is compromised.
- Consider purchasing identity theft protection. This type of coverage may help protect you and your family against identity theft and help resolve identity fraud issues that arise.
- Be cautious with your child's Social Security number.nIf a school, youth sports team or a medical office asks for your child's Social Security number, know that it's OK to question why they need it, what they will do with it and how they plan to keep it safe.
- Shred paperwork that includes your child's personal information. Shred forms, documents and mail before disposal.
- Never carry your child's Social Security card. To help reduce the risk for theft or loss, leave you child's Social Security card — and the cards of all the members of your family — in a secure place, like a safe at home or a safe deposit box.
What to do if your child's identity was stolen
If you find out that someone has stolen your child's identity, here are steps you can take to help minimize the damage.
- Contact the three credit bureaus. If you discovered that a credit report fraudulently exists for your child, contact each of the three major credit bureaus and ask them to remove the fraudulent accounts, as your child is a minor. You can also place a credit freeze on their credit file until your child is old enough to apply for their own credit, says the FTC.
- Report the identity theft to the FTC. The reporting process will typically include answering some questions about the situation and creating a personal recovery plan.
- File a police report. You may need to contact your local police department to file an identity theft report, according to USA.gov.
By taking a few proactive steps and staying alert to early warning signs, you may be able to help keep your child from becoming a victim of identity theft. And remember, if your child's identity does get stolen, it's important to act quickly to help minimize the damage.