It seems far-fetched, but one of the biggest targets for identity thieves demographic-wise is children.
People could find your child’s name online and their personal information, buying it for just a few dollars on the dark web.
There are also situations where family members might steal a child’s identity.
The following are seven things every parent should know about their child’s identity being stolen.
1. What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is when someone steals the personal information of another person, using it without permission. There are various types of identity theft, and the effects vary.
There’s no way to fully protect yourself or your child from identity theft, but there are things you can proactively do to know how to handle a situation if it is stolen.
The term identity theft is a broad one, and it refers to any time someone is stealing personal information like a Social Security number and then creating new accounts, making purchases, or committing other types of fraud.
Your personal information, as well as that of your children, is always at risk. It can be harder to detect if someone steals your child’s identity because you’re not monitoring their credit like you do your own.
There are so many ways that criminals can obtain data, including data breaches, dark web marketplaces, malware activity, and Wi-Fi hacking.
2. A Child’s Identity is Very Appealing
A thief finds a child’s identity to be the perfect target from their perspective.
That’s because the credit history and Social Security number are, to them, a clean slate.
It will also be untouched and likely unchecked for potentially many years.
This gives a thief ample time to open new accounts, get a driver’s license or job, and even buy major things like a car or home.
A thief can also pair any name and birth date with a Social Security number they steal to create a false identity altogether.
3. Family Members May be the Perpetrators
Unfortunately, there are plenty of situations where the family members of a child are the ones responsible for stealing their identity.
If someone’s ruined their credit, then an easy solution, in their opinion, might be stealing the Social Security number of a child they live with or a relative or close friend’s child.
Once the family member or friend steals the Social Security number, they can use it for any number of purposes, like getting utility services, opening bank accounts, and getting credit cards.
4. It Can Happen At School
If you’re filling out forms for your child’s school, do you know where the information is actually going?
How will it be protected and stored? Who’s going to have access to this information.
The identities of children can be stolen from a doctor’s office or from school records.
Unless you legally have to provide your child’s Social Security number, don’t.
Your child’s school should not, in any situation, use a Social Security number as an identification number.
If there’s a situation where someone is asking for your child’s Social Security number, you need to ask why it’s needed, how it will be protected, whether they can use a different identifier, and if they can just use the last four digits of the Social Security number.
5. How To Know If Someone Is Using Your Child’s Information?
Some of the many potential red flags that indicate someone is using your child’s personal information include:
- If you apply for government benefits like health care coverage or a nutrition assistance program and you’re denied, it could be because someone is already using the Social Security number of your child to obtain those benefits.
- You start getting calls about overdue bills in your child’s name.
- The IRS sends a letter saying your child didn’t pay income taxes. This happens when someone uses a child’s Social Security number to get a new job as they’re filling out the required tax forms.
- Your child is getting pre-approved credit card offers in the mail.
It can be years before the theft of a child’s identity is uncovered, and it can lead to catastrophic consequences.
Later in life, your child might be denied credit and student loans, for example.
Sometimes, this could be the first indicator a family ever has that their child has been the victim of identity theft.
If you see any red flags of identity theft, check if your child has a credit report.
For the most part, children under the age of 18 don’t have credit reports unless someone is fraudulently using their information.
You can contact the three major credit bureaus and ask for a manual search of the Social Security number of your child.
6. What to Do
If you figure out someone has already stolen the personal information of your child, the first thing to do is report it and close all the fraudulent accounts you can identify.
This means you’ll have to tell each company’s fraud department individually that someone’s opened an account using the name of your child.
You should ask them to send your written confirmation that the child isn’t responsible.
You also need to contact the three credit bureaus and request they remove fraudulent accounts.
If your child is under 16, you can request a free credit freeze. This is known as a security freeze, so it’s harder for someone to open new accounts in the name of your child. Until you tell credit bureaus to remove it, the freeze is in place.
You’ll need to report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission, which you can do at IdentityTheft.gov.
7. Protecting Your Child’s Identity
If you haven’t already seen indicators your child is the victim of identity theft, you want to proactively protect against it.
Again, don’t give out your child’s SSN unless you absolutely have to. Protect all of their documents in a safe location.
You can also monitor your child’s SSN and credit with identity monitoring services.
These services will alert you if any information is stolen and leaked online or if there’s new activity.