A parent’s job is to try to keep children safe from harm. We may not always think about keeping them safe from identity theft because they don’t seem old enough to fall victim to this crime. However, children are often the target of identity theft. By making sure their financial identity is correct, you are able to help them with their financial future.
Identity thieves have preyed upon children in many ways, including using a child’s stolen identity to get a job, receive government benefits, medical care, utilities, a car loan - even a mortgage. It is important to protect your kids’ personal information and minimize the damage that child identity theft can cause.
There are many warning signs to look for that are evidence of your child being a victim of identity theft. You receive bills for products or services you didn’t receive, including medical care. Your child is turned down for government benefits because the benefits are being paid to another account using your child’s Social Security number. Or perhaps you receive a notice from the IRS saying the child didn’t pay taxes on income or that the child’s Social Security number was used on another tax return. These are all signs that your child could be a victim of identity theft.
If you suspect your child’s financial or personal information may be at risk, you can check whether your child has a credit report by contacting each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies:
It is a good idea to suggest that each company do a manual search using just your child’s Social Security number, especially if nothing turns up when searching by both name and Social Security number. If there is a credit report for your child, you will need to follow up with each credit reporting company. You will need to be able to provide proof that the child is a minor and you are the parent or legal guardian. Each company should be asked to remove all accounts, account inquiries and collection notices from any file associated with your child’s name and Social Security number.
The best way to prevent child identity theft is to keep your child’s information safe and private. It is important to keep all documents that show your child’s personal information locked up and to not share your child’s Social Security number unless you know and trust the other party. Shred all documents that do show your child’s information before throwing them away for security.
When your child is nearing the age of 16, it’s a good idea to check whether there is a credit report for the child. If there is one - and there are errors due to fraud or misuse - you will have time to correct the issues before the child applies for a job, an education loan or auto loan, or needs to rent an apartment.
Portions from this article from onguardonline.gov. It was published in the Founders FCU's Transaction Newsletter (July 2012).