As a parent, you want to protect your children from all that you can – kidnapping, bullies, diseases, and even hurt feelings. However, you might not be aware of the risk of child identity theft.
Children are a target for identity theft because they have a clean slate, and it can take years before the fraud is even detected. If a child’s identity is stolen at a young age, they might not even notice the error until they request their first credit report or apply for their first line of credit as a teenager. By then, the paper trail of the thief would be hard to trace down. So what do you do? Here are a few suggestions.
How to Protect Your Child from Identity Theft
The first thing to do is to be aware of what information you are giving out. For example, it might seem harmless to quickly ramble off your child’s birth date and social security at the doctor’s office, but there could be someone listening. It’s best to write this on a piece of paper and then destroy the paper shortly afterwards.
If possible, don’t give out your child’s full name or birth date unless it’s absolutely necessary. For example, if your teen wants to sign up for a social media or game website, make sure they don’t use their real information for protection against cyber theft.
You can also request a credit report for your child, but it will take a bit of work. You will need to provide proper documentation, including copies of a birth certificate, social security card, address and your driver’s license. Hopefully the report will come back with no credit, which is what you want. If not, then at least you can start disputing the information sooner rather than later.
Family members, close friends, or even babysitters can be the main suspects of child identity theft because they have the easiest access to your information. It’s wise to keep important documentation, such as birth certificates and social security cards, locked away in a small safe.
Signs to Look Out For
While most child identity theft might go unnoticed, these signs should be major giveaways that something is wrong:
- If your teen is denied access to a driver’s license due to already having one
- If your child receives calls from collection agencies
- If your child receives pre-approved credit card offers
What Should You Do If Your Child’s Identity Has Been Stolen?
The first thing to do is to take a deep breath and calm yourself down. While this is a horrible situation, it can be fixed.
You then want to go into your local law enforcement office and file a police report. This is to get the crime recorded. They can also be a helpful resource of what to do next.
You want to immediately contact the credit bureaus as well. If there is credit activity on your child’s account, you can request to have the account frozen. This will prevent any further use of the account by thieves.
If you catch your child’s identity theft early, then you have many years to clear their record. Fighting credit card theft is a long and lengthy process, but it can be done. Make sure to record every person you speak to over the phone during the process and keep any important papers organized.
Child identity theft is something all parents should be aware of and something they should inform their children when they are old enough to understand the severity of the situation.
How do you protect your child’s identity?