Did your kid ever get a pre-approved credit card offer? If so, this is a sign that their identity might have been taken by a scammer. Child identity theft is when someone uses the minor’s Social Security number to commit fraud. This might include applying for benefits, opening up a credit card, or even taking out a loan.
This can go on for many years, and you might not know for a very long time. However, there are some things that you can do to keep your child’s identity safe.
What are the Warning Signs of Child ID Theft and How it Occurs
Typically, child identity theft occurs when a kid’s Social Security number is stolen. There are many ways this can happen including from electronic data breaches and stealing official documents. Fortunately, there are some signs that this could be happening:
- Receiving a Pre-Approved Credit Card Offer – As said above, a pre-approved credit card offering could be a sign that your child’s credit is being used. Credit card companies only send an offer like this if they have access to your credit file.
- Getting Turned Down for Government Benefits – You might be trying to apply for benefits for your child when you find out you were denied. It could be because your child’s information is being used elsewhere.
- Getting a Notice from the IRS – If you get a letter that your child didn’t pay taxes, this is problematic, too.
- Getting a Call or Letter from a Bill Collector – If you get a call or letter from a collection agency for your child, there is a big issue.
How to Protect Your Child’s Identity
Here are a few tips to protect the identity of your child:
- Unless it is absolutely necessary, do not share your child’s Social Security number.
- Lock away and keep your child’s info secure.
- If you have documents with your child’s information on them, shred them before you toss them out.
- Keep an eye on anyone in your home who might be tempted to use your child’s identity.
- Learn about any school directory information policy. Find out if you can opt out, and then do it.
What Should You do if You Child’s Information is Stolen
If you believe that your child’s information has been compromised, you should do the following:
- First, contact the top three major credit reporting companies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
- Ask each agency to do a manual search of the Social Security number, and then do a search with the name AND the Social Security number.
- Keep a record of phone calls and letters.
If you can confirm that your child is a victim of ID theft, immediately do the following:
- Contact the credit bureaus and explain what is happening. Ask them to remove any inquiries, collection notices, and accounts. You then have to show proof that the child is actually a minor.
- You also must contact any company where the information was used and ask them to close any accounts that are open due to ID theft.
- Put a fraud alert on the credit report of your child by contacting the credit bureaus.
- Consider putting a credit freeze on your child. This is the best way to ensure nothing happens to your child’s identity. This ensures that their credit is locked until they are an adult or until you choose to unfreeze it.
- Get a copy of the credit report of the child. If there is a credit report, they are very likely a victim of ID theft. If there is no report, that is good news.
- Report the incident with the FTC online or via phone.
- Create a report at identitytheft.gov.
Probably the most important tip here is to consider putting a credit freeze on your child’s credit report to protect their identity. Setting up a child’s credit freeze is a very different process than freezing an adults credit. The credit bureaus don’t make it easy, in fact, they try to make it as difficult as possible. Fortunately, CreditParent makes this process relatively seamless. For a significantly low fee, all the parent needs to do is gather their child’s information and submit it to CreditParent and they do all the heavy lifting.
Having their identity stolen could be a bad thing for the future of your child, so take the steps now to fix it.
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.