Identity theft is no small problem. It can lead to financial disaster and ruin lives. What s worse is that the victims of identity theft are often children. You may not even realize your child s risk level or susceptibility. It is important to educate yourself about risk factors and identity theft protection options to help keep your children from becoming victims.
How Kids Become Victims of Identity Theft
Children can fall victim to identity theft through the mishandling of their school or day-care forms. School forms often require personal information, so it is important that you find out how your child s school or organization uses, files, secures and discards the forms. Ask the organization directly for this information. It is your right by law to know, and laws protect your child s information. If the organization does not keep the information locked up and does not shred it before discarding, then you should request they do this.
Data breaches at school provide another form of opportunity for theft. But school isn t the only place that holds your child s personal information and documentation keep sensitive information locked up at home as well.
Of course, there are other ways for someone to gain access to that private information, such as if you inadvertently give out your child s Social Security number to the wrong person, or if someone steals the child s SSN and other personal information. In those cases, look for warning signs and be ready to address the problem immediately.
Warning Signs, and What to Do If Your Child Falls Victim
There are a number of things you can do if someone steals your child s identity.
- Check if your child has a credit history. Contact one (or all) of the three credit bureaus, which are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Ask the company to search for a credit report for your child. You may need to provide copies of personal forms such as his or her birth certificate, Social Security card, proof of address and your government ID card.
- Correct any false reports. If your child s credit report shows a false line of credit, immediately contact each of the three credit bureaus and ask them to remove these from the record. Also ask them to place a fraud alert on the report. Contact each company that reported the false records and ask them to close these illegal accounts.
- File a formal fraud report. Contact the Federal Trade Commission (877-438-4338) and submit a formal fraud report on behalf of your child. Depending on the misuse of the identity (such as a false tax return or withdrawal of government benefits), you may also need to file a police report.
- Continue to monitor your child s credit reports. You will need to continue to monitor your child s credit for years to come to detect any fraudulent reports quickly. Consider investing in identity theft protection services, which can monitor your child s personal information on the web and existing accounts and reports.
Do all that you can to prevent something like this from happening to your child, but if it happens, take the proper steps as swiftly as possible. You can minimize damage through quick action and continual credit monitoring.