1 in 40 American Families Deal With Child Identity Theft.
This isn’t purely a homeowner issue but I feel it belongs here nonetheless. It’s a family issue. A community issue.
You protect your children from physical dangers in your home. You protect them from dangers in and out of your neighborhood. Whether it’s screening care-givers, walking kids to the bus, or monitoring their social media exposure, we protect our children from other people. And though most adult Americans take precautions to protect themselves from identity theft, not everyone considers that they may need to protect their child from the same situation.
While child identity theft is not as common as identity theft among adults, it is still a risk. One in 40 families with children under 18 had at least one child whose personal information was compromised, according to the most recent survey by the Identity Theft Assistance Center and the Javelin Strategy & Research group. 1 in 40 may not sound like a lot but that is well over 3 Million households dealing with the issue of Child Identity Theft.
Many people choose to obtain a social security number for their child at birth, but fail to monitor the child’s credit, mistakenly believing there will be nothing documented. Using the newly obtained social security number, paired with a different name, birth date and address, the imposter applies for credit, called a synthetic identity. And, for nearly 18 years, there is typically little risk of detection.
There is one safe and free avenue for monitoring credit and you should check your child’s report as often as you check your own… typically and wisely once a year. USA.gov suggests AnnualCreditReport.com. (please note that other free credit report websites may be deceptive or a path to misuse your personal information) If you note any unusual activity in your child’s file, immediately notify all three credit bureaus. They are: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.
According to PNC, there are warning signs that your child may be a victim include:
– Notification by the IRS of unpaid taxes in your child’s name.
– Notification that a child’s Social Security number was used on another tax return.
– Receiving collection calls for a minor child
– Receiving bills in a child’s name for products or services not ordered or delivered.
– Declined for government benefits because benefits already are being paid to another account using the child’s Social Security number.
Parents can be proactive in protecting their child from identity theft:
– Never carry your child’s (or your own) Social Security card in your wallet or purse. Keep it in a safe (and I might add fireproof) place, where it is not at risk of being stolen.
– Pay attention to forms from schools, doctor’s offices and others asking for personally identifiable information about your child. Opt out if you can or use the last four digits only.
– Shred all documents that show your child’s personally identifiable information before throwing them in the trash, just as you do for your own documents.
Worth Repeating: Request a credit report for your child annually, using the child’s Social Security number for reference. Every individual is entitled to one free copy of their credit report once every 12 months at www.annualcreditreport.com. If there is no credit history on record, then typically the child has not fallen prey to identity thieves. If there is a credit history for a minor child, he/she has mostly likely become a victim.