Although many consider identity theft to be an “adult problem,” an increasing number of victims under the age of 18 has been observed over the last few years. In fact, children are statistically more likely to have their identity stolen compared to adults. Moreover, the amount of monetary losses resulting from child identity theft has significantly grown, too.
Child identity theft occurs when someone uses a child's Social Security Number to commit fraud, such as taking out loans or collecting welfare checks. The crime is not easy to detect, unless the parents or legal guardians routinely check their child’s credit reports and actively follow their online activity to ensure there are no threats. Furthermore, early detection of child identity theft is crucial to preventing serious, potentially life-long consequences, such as damaged credit history and debt.
How To Protect Your Child From Identity Theft?
There are various warning signs of child identity theft that parents and legal guardians should look out for. For example, if a child receives pre-approved credit card offers in the mail, it could mean that their SSN has been stolen and used for borrowing money.
To prevent such events from occurring it important to:
- Never share your child’s SSN online. If an individual or an institution such as a school requests the SSN, ask if you can provide a different form of identification, or alternatively, what measures will be taken to protect the child’s personal information.
- Keep documents in a secure place and always remember to shred documents containing sensitive information before throwing them out.
- Talk to your child about the potential threats; ensure that they are well-informed about how to stay safe online by not revealing any personal information to unknown users, websites, or applications.
- Closely monitor your child’s credit report and any mail addressed to them. Alternatively or as another layer of protection, you can also sign up for an identity monitoring plan.
Your Child’s Identity Has Been Stolen -- What Should You Do Now?
If you find out that your child has become a victim of identity theft, there are a few important steps that need to be taken:
- Contact all major credit reporting bureaus, explain what happened, and ask them to remove information associated with your child’s name and SSN. You may also need to provide proof that your child is a minor, which can be done by presenting a copy of the Uniform Minor’s Status Declaration.
- Request a fraud alert on your child’s credit report and you may also want to consider placing a credit freeze. This will ensure that no new accounts will be open in your child’s name.
- Call FTC or go to their website to file a fraud report.
- Go to identitytheft.gov to create an identity theft report.
To summarize, child identity theft is a serious issue that should not be ignored. Proper security measures, such as monitoring your child’s credit report, can help you detect identity theft early. Finding out that your child’s identity has been stolen and responding to the issue appropriately and in a timely manner is crucial for avoiding devastating consequences such as debt or damaged credit history.