While many adults have educated themselves on identifying and protecting against identity fraud directed at young adults and elders, many don’t think that their younger children could also be at risk.
Children are assigned a Social Security number at birth, and that number can be used by an identity thief to get credit cards, open bank accounts, rent an apartment, and apply for loans, utility services and even government benefits.
Even before they start school, your child’s personal information will be stored by countless government agencies and companies, meaning it could be at risk of being used for fraud.
Protection is the best prevention, so here are some things to stay vigilant of and some ideas for staying ahead of the game when it comes to protecting your children’s online and offline identities and their financial futures.
Here are some things that you can do:
Identify Warning Signs
These are a few signs that can tell you if a fraudster has possibly stolen your child’s identity:
- You don’t receive bills or paperwork (like medical statements or government documents) associated with them.
- Their personal financial account has unauthorized transactions.
- They receive tax documentation, but they aren’t employed.
- They receive direct mail or phone calls soliciting expensive products or services.
- Their credit score shifts in either direction.
- There are small “test charges” on their debit card.
- They are rejected for credit in their young adulthood because of a poor credit score.
Stop Problems Before They Occur
- Keep all of your child’s paper and electronic records in a safe place. Be particularly vigilant with anything that has their personal information on it.
- Shred documents that contain personal information before throwing them away.
- Be very selective about sharing their personal information, especially in online situations. Ask why it’s necessary and how it will be protected.
- Never share your child’s Social Security number unless it’s with a highly trusted party, and only use the last four digits whenever possible.
- Protect yourself in situations that put your family’s information at risk. If you lose a wallet or paperwork that has sensitive information on it, your home is broken into, or if a school, business or medical office notifies you of a security breach, make sure you alert your credit union or credit card provider in addition to freezing your credit and begin working with a monitoring service.
When your child’s sixteenth birthday approaches, use tools like FREEScoresAndMore, Identity Guard, LifeLock, or Credit Karma to check if they have a credit report. This will give you time to correct any issues with fraud before they apply for a job, car or student loan, or rent an apartment.
Repair the Damage
If there is evidence of fraud on your child’s credit report, quickly reach out and notify all those that should have your child’s private information, this is a critical first step.
- Call every credit reporting company – Equifax, Experian, TransUnion – and ask them to put a fraud alert on your child’s information and request that they remove all accounts, account inquiries, and collection notices from anything associated with your child’s name and Social Security number.
- Get in touch with businesses that misused your child’s information and ask them to close and flag fraudulent accounts.
- File a report with the FTC or call 877-438-4388. A police report may be necessary if the fraud is medical or related to taxes.
- In Montana this can be done through the Montana Office of Consumer Protection.
For every example shared here, there are criminals finding new ways to exploit victims. Remember that staying vigilant, protecting your child’s personal information, and preemptively avoiding fraud is worth your while.