Do you have a kid who has gotten a pre-approved credit card offer in the mail? If so, their identity might have been stolen. Child ID theft is when a person uses a minor’s Social Security number to commit some type of fraud, which can include opening credit cards, taking out a loan, or even applying for government benefits.
Something like this can go on for years, and you might not even know it. But there are things you can do to protect your child’s identity, so keep reading.
How Does Child Identity Theft Occur and What are the Warning Signs?
In general, child identity theft happens when their Social Security number is stolen. There are plenty of ways that this can happen from stealing official documents to electronic data breaches. So, what are the signs that this might be happening?
- Getting a Pre-Approved Credit Offer – As mentioned, a pre-approved credit card offer might be a sign that your child’s credit is at risk. A credit card company only send these offers if it has access to a credit file.
- Getting Turned Down for Benefits – You might also be trying to apply for some type of government benefit for your child but keep getting denied.
- Receiving an IRS Notice – Letters claiming that your child didn’t pay income taxes is a big sign, too.
- Getting a Letter or Call About an Unpaid Bill – If a collection agency is calling for your child, there is a big problem.
Protecting Your Child’s Identity
Here are some tips for protecting your child’s identity:
- Don’t share your child’s Social Security number unless it is absolutely necessary.
- Keep documents with your child’s information secure and locked away.
- Shred any documents with your child’s information before tossing them out.
- Be aware of anyone in your household who might use your child’s identity.
- Learn about your child’s school’s directory information policy. Can you opt out?
What Can You Do if Your Child is a Victim of Identity Theft?
If you think that your child’s information is compromised, you should do the following:
- Contact all three major credit reporting companies: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.
- Ask them to do a manual search of the file with the Social Security number and a separate search with the name AND Social Security number.
- Keep records of letters and phone calls.
If you confirm that your child has been a victim, you need to do the following:
- Reach out to all of the credit bureaus and explain the situation. Ask them to remove any collection notices, accounts, and inquires. You will have to give them proof that the child is a minor.
- Contact any business where the information was used and ask them to close any open accounts due to identity theft.
- Place a fraud alert on the child’s credit report by contacting one of the three credit bureaus.
- Consider a credit freeze. Freezing a child credit is the best, most proactive way to prevent “new account fraud” and lock down your child’s identity until and after the age of 18. There are “do it yourself” ways of accomplishing this or they can be done for a nominal free at org.
- Order a copy of your child’s credit report, which shouldn’t even exist if they are 17 or under. If there is a credit report, they are likely a victim of fraud.
- File a report with the FTC by phone or online.
- Go to identitytheft.gov and create a report.
This could be a bad thing for your child’s future, so it is very important that you take steps to fix it, right now.
ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program.