As an adult, discovering that your identity has been compromised is a scary occurrence. Once identity thieves have your personal information, they can drain your bank account, run up charges on your credit cards and even file a tax refund in your name. Unfortunately, identity theft can happen to anybody — including children.
Children are easy targets because they typically do not start using their information until early adulthood, when applying for college, loans or their first credit card. Child identity theft may be underreported by family members who may be linked to the fraud, as well as households in which individuals do not discover that they have been victimized until after they are 18 years old.
According to a 2012 survey by the Identity Theft Assistance Center, one in 40 families with children under the age of 18 had a least one child whose personal information was compromised. The survey also revealed that identity thieves most often steal children’s Social Security numbers because children seldom have a credit history. Better Business Bureau serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin encourages parents to regularly monitor their children’s credit report to prevent devastating damage to their future.
Since November is National Child Safety and Protection Month, your BBB advises parents to protect your child’s identity:
- Safeguard your child’s personal information. Keep your child’s personal identifiable information in a safe place, such as his or her Social Security card, date of birth and birth certificate.
- Monitor your child’s credit report. As soon as you get your child’s Social Security card, you should start monitoring his or her report. Request a free credit report from annualcreditreport.com.
- Keep anti-virus software updated. Some identity thieves create viruses designed to search computers for documents containing your child’s Social Security number. Try not to store important numbers or passwords in files or folders located on your computer.
- Safely dispose of personal documents. Shred all papers that include your child’s personal information before you throw them out and delete computer files that you no longer need.