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On the list of things that stress you out, it probably seems ridiculous to worry about identity theft happening to your children. They don’t have a drivers license or a credit card in their name. It’s impossible for their identity to be compromised, right?
Did you know that the risk of a minor having their identity stolen is 51 times higher than the risk to an adult? On average, identity theft affects 15 million U.S. residents per year.
Carnegie Mellon’s Cylab issued a report on child identity theft in the United States. The report found that 4,000 children had someone else using their social security number. This astounding number is hard to stomach, especially since it is often assumed that it only happens to adults.
Learn more about why minors are considered perfect targets for identity thieves and how to prevent your child from becoming a victim.
What Kind of Person Would Target a Child?
A smart one. While children lack credit or debt card data that can be stolen, or savings accounts that can be depleted, they do have a credit history that is as clean as a whistle.
Generally, a minor’s credit history is left alone until it is time for them to apply for student or car loans. This gives identity thieves over a decade’s worth of time to target a minor’s information without anyone taking notice.
That exciting bridge into adulthood when your child takes on the responsibility of applying for loans and credit cards is shattered when you realize he is denied due to a less than perfect credit history resulting from years worth of unpaid debt.
As an adult, you can understand the time it takes to repair a bad credit history. Your child shouldn’t have to go through this “repair phase” when they haven’t done anything to harm their credit in the first place.
Be In the Know! Recognizing the Warning Signs
The following are some tell-tale signs that something is amiss with your child’s identity:
Suspicious Pre-Approved Credit Cards Offers Addressed to Your Child– If you begin receiving offers for pre-approved credit cards in your child’s name, this could be an alert that there may be a credit file associated with your child’s name and social security number.
You Are Receiving Calls From Collection Agencies – If you’re contacted by a collection agency, trying to collect debt in your child’s name, it’s a red flag that that their information has been compromised and is being used illegally.
Your Attempts to Open a Financial Account For Your Child Are Denied – If you try to open a student savings account for your child only to realize an account already exists, or the application is denied due to poor credit history, you should take immediate action.
Take a Stand! What To Do If You Suspect Your Child is a Victim of Identity Theft
Contact All Three Credit Reporting Agencies
Ask that they run a free “Minor Check.” If the check returns no results for your child’s social security number, you can rest easy that no illegal activity is taking place.
If the check does return results, ask that all three agencies remove all accounts, inquiries, and collection notices from any files associated with your child’s identity.
Ask that a fraud alert be placed on your child’s credit report.
File a Fraud Report For Your Child
This can be done online through the FTC or by calling them at 877-438-4338.
The police may need to get involved if the fraud relates to medical services or taxes.
Moving forward, be very selective about who you give your child’s social security number to. This will help to protect your child’s identity and give you peace of mind as you work to build a strong future for your child.