Millions of adults fall victim to identity theft each year, and while individuals are becoming more knowledgeable about how to protect themselves, few rarely think about protecting their children from identity theft. Identity thieves are increasingly targeting children, using their personal information for credit, employment, and medical and criminal purposes. In the mind of an identity thief, the earlier in a child’s life that they can obtain this information the better, because it gives them a longer time to use the information for their own personal needs before being noticed.
Credit card companies do not usually have a birthdate verification system, and therefore it is easy for identity thieves to use a child’s social security number to get credit. Because first time applicants are considered to have “good credit” children who have no credit in their names are prime targets.
Identity thieves can also commit “synthetic identity theft” where they use part of a child’s information with other fictitious information such as birthdates and names.
In order to protect your child you want to do many of the same things you would do to protect yourself. First, you want to order credit reports for everyone in your family, regardless of age. To do this visit annualcreditreport.com and contact one of the three major reporting agencies. It is also recommended that you do a “manual search” of your child’s social security number by the agency that you submit to.
Additionally, as I noted in a previous post “Tips to Help Protect Yourself from Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft,” make sure that you shred documents that contain sensitive personal information about your child, be careful not to carry your child’s social security card on you (keep it in a safe and secure place in your home) and, if someone asks for your child’s personal information make sure to ask Why they need the information What they are going to use the information for, and How they are going to protect the information.
Most import is just being aware that children are just as susceptible to becoming victim’s of identity theft as adults. Parents and guardians need to make sure that they are taking the same precautions to protect their children’s identities that they take to protect their own identities. If your child’s identity is stolen you should go through the same process as you would if your own identity was stolen—for more information on what to do if your or your child’s identity is stolen please see my previous post “What to do if Your Identity is Stolen” or visit: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft