While you may have never considered it before, children are easy targets for identity theft. Each year, 500,000 people under the age of 18 are victims of identity theft, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Here are some basic questions answered about how you can protect your kids from identity theft.
Why Are Kids Such Easy Targets?
Children have a clean credit history, making them attractive targets. Banks and the Social Security Administration do not share birth date information, so credit reporting organizations cannot verify age—allowing criminals to open lines of credit irrespective of age.
Traditionally, parents have not had any reason to check their child’s credit report.
Often children and their parents only realize a crime has been committed years later, when the child first applies for credit. • Children with stolen identities typically discover the crime in their 20’s and it takes the average 18- to 24-year-old 132 days to detect an instance of theft, compared with only 35 days for the 55-64 age group, according to a 2010 Javelin Strategy & Research report.
Additionally, the average theft costs the 18- to-24-year-old group $1,156, compared with $234 for all ID theft victims.
Many child identity-theft cases go unreported because the thief is a parent or relative.
How Can I Protect My Kids?
Check your child’s credit report annually: For children above the age of 13, go to annualcreditreport.com, the government-mandated source for free credit reports. For children under 13, parents must request credit reports by mail. No credit report usually means no misuse. If a credit report exists, be sure to check for issues and inconsistencies. Never carry your child’s Social Security card in your wallet or purse. Leave it at home in a secure place such as a safe or lockbox.
The most common way a child’s identity falls into criminal hands is when a parent loses a wallet or purse containing the child’s personal information.
Don’t give children their Social Security numbers until they are old enough to understand how to use them properly.
Can I Give Out a Copy of My Kid’s Birth Certificate?
Many childrens’ organizations, including sports leagues, require a copy of a birth certificate. If so, you should:
Ask where the birth certificate will be stored.
Ask what will happen with the birth certificate at the end of the season and make sure that it will it be returned or destroyed.
If the league must hold the birth certificate, place it in a sealed envelope and write your name across the flap. At the end of the season, when the birth certificate is returned, the envelope should still be sealed.
What Can I Teach My Kid About Identity Theft?
Once he is old enough, teach your child what information is important: dates of birth, Social Security numbers, identification cards, etc.
Teach him why it’s important just like you’d teach him about $20 bills and car keys.
When teaching your kid about Internet safety, emphasize that he should never give out personal information online, especially anything that could pinpoint his location or identity.
What Should I Do if I Think Someone Has Stolen my Kid’s Identity
Request your child’s credit report. If it shows problem activity, contact your insurer or bank to see if they provide identity protection services from Identity Theft 911, the nation’s No. 1 resolution service: www.identitytheft911.com.
One of our fraud specialists will guide you and provide practical support through every step of the resolution process—assisting with the paperwork, telephone calls and other tasks required to resolve your situation.
The same fraud specialist stays with you and your case from beginning to end and will help restore your child’s credit record and pursue criminal and civil legal action against the perpetrator.
How Do We Recover from a Stolen Identity?
When your insurer or bank refers you to Identity Theft 911, fraud specialists will help you:
File a police report, spurring an investigation or legal action;
Properly handle your Identity Theft Affidavit, a notarized statement that enables you to report your identity theft to all parties, including financial institutions, law enforcement, and government agencies;
Confirm that the theft does no long-term damage to you or your child’s credit history or financial future.
If you’re working on your own, stay organized, patient and persistent.
Check and see if you have identity theft protection through your bank, credit card company or insurance provider. (Oftentimes you may be covered and not know it.)
If the fraud is employment or tax related, contact your local Social Security Administration office and the Internal Revenue Service.
About the Author
Fueled by a passion to protect and inform consumers, Adam Levin helped to ignite the growth of a new industry in 2003 when he co-founded Identity Theft 911, the industry leader in providing enterprise-level identity management solutions.
A consumer advocate, educator, regulator, business owner and identity theft expert for over 30 years, Adam has dedicated his life to promoting financial literacy, protecting consumers, and encouraging greater competition in the marketplace. He worked closely with numerous federal and state agencies to improve and more fairly and effectively enforce credit, health and safety laws.
In addition to his responsibilities as Chairman of Identity Theft 911, he is Co-Founder, Chairman and principal shareholder of Credit.com, Inc. — an online financial services educator, advocate and gateway to trusted credit product and service providers for over nine million consumers annually.