Child identity theft is on the rise with the latest Child Identity Fraud Report noting that this type of fraud occurs to roughly 150,000 kids per year and that one in 40 households in the United States with kids under the age of 18 will experience child identity fraud at some point during the child’s lifetime.
This type of fraud is a favorite among hackers because children have untouched, untarnished Social Security numbers making it easy for the criminal to apply for loans or open new lines of credit through a bank or credit card. Additionally, this type of identity theft can go undetected for years since most parents don’t run credit checks on their children.
Criminals can use your child’s identity for years without worrying as most cases of child identity theft don’t get discovered until years after the crime has occurred when the child applies for their first loan or job. At this point your child’s credit history may be ruined.
How Criminals Can Obtain Your Child’s Personal Information
Often times parents get Social Security numbers for their children so that they can claim them as dependents during tax filing season. The easiest time to get a Social Security number is when a child is born – in fact, the government recommends it, as there may be delays if it’s done at a later time.
Because of how early a child get’s their SS number, there are a number of places that where it may be vulnerable, along with other personal identity information, including:
- Birth records
- Hospital records, immunization records and physicians’ offices
- Day care centers and school records
- Sports team applications
- Online social networks, in which thieves coax information from teens
Consequences of Identity Theft for Your Child
According to the Federal Trade Commission, new account fraud causes out-of-pocket expenses as well as requires time to repair any damage suffered from identity theft. Some of the consequences that your child may face if their identity is stolen and used by criminals include:
- Problems getting accepted into college
- Troubles with opening a bank account
- Difficulty applying for a driver’s license
- Issues with securing a job
- Dealing with debt collectors and receiving collection notices
- Ruined credit
- Having arrest warrants in your child’s name
Clearly, the impact of child identity theft can be quite severe and can cause repercussions that follow your child for years.
Warning Signs Your Child’s Identity Has Been Compromised
There are warning signs that you should be looking for that may indicate that your child is a victim of identity theft:
- Getting denied for government benefits due to the benefits being paid to another account using your child’s Social Security number.
- Receiving a notice from the IRS saying the child didn’t pay income taxes or that the Social Security number of your child was used on another tax return.
- Getting collection calls or notices for a debt incurred in your child’s name for products or services they didn’t receive or use.
- Receiving jury duty notices or other mail that would generally be directed to someone 18 or over.
What to Do if You Suspect Your Child is a Victim
If you believe that your child may be the victim of identity theft, the following steps are recommended:
- Contact law enforcement immediately to file a police report if you believe that your child’s information has been used fraudulently.
- Contact each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies so that you can request to monitor your child’s credit report. It’s important to let the credit bureau know that the report is associated with a minor who shouldn’t have a credit history.
- Run a background check on your child’s name as well as a Social Security number search to make sure that your child’s information isn’t being used for criminal activity or other fraudulent behavior.
- If your child’s information has been used fraudulently, you will want to work with a reputable company to help you remove the fraudulent activity from your child’s account. There is critical paperwork to complete that can often be complicated.
Steps to Safeguarding Your Child’s Personal Information
There are a few precautions that you can take to help minimize the risk of your child’s information falling into the wrong hands, including:
- Keeping your child’s birth certificate and social security number in a safe place
- Being cautious with who you provide your child’s personal identifying information to.
- Ensuring that when you do need to turn over your child’s identifying information (for example to the doctor’s office or school) that you ask questions to find out how the information will be used, who will have access to it, and how it will be safeguarded.
The prevalence and impact of this type of criminal behavior should cause enough concern that you take the proper precautions to protect your child’s identification information from theft.