COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) – The S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs is urging parents to take necessary steps to protect their children from identity thieves.
Child identity theft can threaten a child’s ability to get a job, get loans for colleges, or even, just sign up for a cell phone, said SCDCA Communications Director Juliana Harris.
“Things of that nature, where you’re trying to get your feet wet, and trying to break out into the world, and at that first stop, you are basically railroaded,” she said.
SCDCA told ABC Columbia it rarely receives complaints about child identity theft, but that’s because most parents don’t know it’s happening.
“A child’s information is extremely valuable because we’re not thinking that our children are going to have a credit report, so you’re not going to be looking for the credit report, you’re not going to be expecting bills coming in the child’s name,” Harris said.
For this reason, the actually rate is hard to pinpoint. Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab scanned more than 40,000 children in 2011. It found that 10 percent of those kids scanned had someone else using their social security number.
There are warning signs you should be looking out for. Harris said bills coming to your mailbox in your child’s name, letters from the IRS, or an agency that issues benefits, and collection calls are all red flags. There’s a chance it could just be a clerical error, but she said to always follow up.
The Protected Consumer Freeze, created in South Carolina in 2015, allows parents to create a credit file in their child’s name and freeze it, making it impossible for thieves to get ahold of. Just remember to unfreeze the file when you child comes of age.
Another option is just pulling a credit report for your child. If he or she does not have one, they should be good to go.
SCDCA staffs a toll-free number, 1-800-922-1594, to answer any questions you might have.