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How to Protect Your Child from Identity Theft

A mother and child looking at a smartphone together to illustrate protecting your child from identity theft
September 30, 2016

Identity theft is a serious crime that happens when someone uses your child’s identity to do things like open a credit card account or access their personal records. The effects can be not only financially devastating, but also personally traumatizing, which is why it’s important to protect your children from identity theft.

What You
Should Know

Identity theft can now happen to your children, too, and take years to undo.

What You
Can Do

Never give out your child’s SSN online, and teach them to not share personal info either.

What are identity thieves after?

When someone steals your child’s identity, the information they generally get includes:

  • Name and address
  • Social Security number
  • Medical insurance account numbers
  • Phone number(s)

What can an identity thief do with a child’s personal information?

They can:

  • Get new credit cards using your child’s name
  • Buy goods and services (including guns)
  • Open a phone, electric, or gas account
  • Get a driver’s license
  • Get medical care in your child name
  • Pretend to be your child if they are arrested
429 million identities were exposed in 2015, according to Symantec.1

Why kids?

Often, the thief is known to the family or is even a relative, so targeting your kids could be
easy for them. Identity thieves also target children because age verification is generally not
part of account-opening processes. And, because few people check to see if their child has a
credit report, it can take years to find out your child’s reputation is in ruins.

How to tell if your child’s identity has been stolen:

When your child’s identity has been compromised, you may receive:

  • Calls from collection agencies
  • Bills or credit card statements sent to your home in your child’s name
  • Pre-approved credit card offers
  • The child’s name comes up on your Caller ID when someone calls you
  • Someone who might know your child’s social security number (SSN) suddenly “finds” a lot of money or gets a driver’s license when you know their original was suspended or revoked
  • Your child receives legal notices
  • Your child, or your family, is denied government assistance because income or benefits, etc. are already assigned to the child’s SSN
  • Notices from the IRS
  • You check with the three credit reporting agencies—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion—and find a credit report exists in your child’s name

How to keep your child safe:

  • Do not give your child’s SSN to anyone unless absolutely necessary—this includes coaches and others involved in after-school activities.
  • If you are required to provide sensitive information in order for your child to participate in an activity, ask where the papers will be stored and provide them in a sealed envelope that should be returned unopened at the season’s end.
  • Cross-cut shred all papers you throw out that contain your child’s SSN.
  • Do not carry your SSN card or your child’s in your wallet.
  • Whenever anyone asks for your child’s SSN, ask if you can provide another form of ID or if the SSN is truly required—often it isn’t.
  • Teach children not to give out personal information over the phone or online.
  • Request a credit freeze for your child – If this service is available in your state, a credit freeze will make it difficult for someone to use your child’s information to open accounts. To place a freeze, you will have to contact each credit bureau separately.
Over half a billion personal information records were stolen or lost in 2015.1

What to do if you suspect identity theft:

If you believe your child’s identity has been compromised, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center at 888.400.5530 or online at http://www.idtheftcenter.org/child.html.

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