Child Identity Theft: Red Flags and Prevention Tips

identity theftIf your child is a minor, he or she shouldn’t have a credit report. After all, he or she can’t buy a home or car, open up a credit card or take out a loan. But, unfortunately, some children do have credit reports and it’s because a thief used their identity to take out some form of credit. Their victims, these innocent children, know nothing about what’s going on. That is, until they try to open their first credit card, apply for a student loan for college or buy their first car and learn that they have years of debt racked up in their name.
Good parents do everything that they can to protect their children: they buy the best car seats, teach their kids not to talk to strangers, baby proof their homes and much more. But there is one hazard that many parents never think about but should: child identity theft. Many people think identity theft is something that happens to adults, but it happens to people of all ages, including children, according to a recent Equifax Finance Blog article, “
Does My Child Have a Credit Report?”.
There are a few red flags and scenarios that can alert you to a possible identity theft:

  • If his or her school experiences a data breach of any kind.
  • If you start receiving credit card offers in the mail for your child.
  • If you get collections calls or bills in your child’s name.
  • If your child is turned down for government benefits and you’re told benefits are already being paid to another account that bears your child’s SSN.
  • If you receive an IRS notification that your child’s SSN was used on someone else’s tax return.

If you do experience any of the above, you should immediately contact the three national credit reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) and request a comprehensive search for a credit file for your child’s name and social security number. If a credit file is found, request a copy of the credit report and review it for any fraudulent accounts. If any fraudulent accounts are found, dispute them immediately. The quicker you act, the less harm the thief can cause.  You may want to place a fraud alert on your child’s credit file and perhaps even a security freeze to prevent any additional credit from being opened in his or her name so no further damage can be done. You can also report the theft to your local law enforcement agency and the Federal Trade Commission.
Identity theft is hard to completely avoid but there are steps you can take to protect your children. Only give out your child’s social security number when absolutely necessary and store his or her social security card in a secure place at home (like a fireproof safe) or in a safe deposit box at the bank.