Believe it or not, adults are not the only ones subject to identity theft. Children can fall victim too. The important thing is to note that there are signs you can look for as a parent to help protect your children from the risks of identity theft. Here’s what you need to know about protecting your child from having their identity stolen.
The Risks of Child Identity Theft
Children also can fall victim to identity theft, and there are signs to watch out for to prevent it from happening. Identity theft happens every day. Every two seconds, someone falls victim to it. In 2021 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received close to 1.4 million children’s identity theft reports from U.S. consumers.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is when a thief steals and uses personal information that belongs to someone else — typically to commit some sort of fraud. There is more than just one type of identity theft, such as financial identity theft, tax identity theft, medical identity theft, and many more.
Specifically, child identity theft is one that goes mostly unnoticed until it’s too late. According to a Javelin study cited in the BECU blog, child identity theft in 2021 cost nearly $1 billion. And about three-quarters (73%) of child ID victims personally know their perpetrators, like family members or close friends.
What Are Some Signs of Child Identity Theft?
Luckily, there are some signs that you as a parent can identify to act on child identity theft. Look for these signs:
- Unsolicited credit offers
- Bills and collections letters
- Social security administration account statement
- IRS letters stating your child didn’t pay taxes
The moment you begin to notice credit offers pop up in the mail for your child, it is time to beware. Unsolicited credit offers show there may be a fraudster working their magic. Typically, it means the criminal has already stolen your child’s identity and is probably actively working on raising credit scores (by paying card bills on time), so they can later apply for credit cards with high credit limits. As soon as they get the credit limit they want, the thief goes on a giant shopping spree and never pays back the high bill.
Next, you may notice bills and collection letters start to make their way into your mailbox. The letters, of course, would be addressed in your child’s name. Lastly, pay attention if you receive any social security administration account statement addressed to your child. Social security account statements contain information concerning social security contributions, and a child does not typically have social security contributions.
How To Protect Your Child’s Identity
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there are a few steps you can take to protect your child from identity theft. For example, ask questions before providing your child’s Social Security number.
- Why do you need it?
- How will you protect it?
- Can you use a different identifier?
- Can you use just the last four digits of the Social Security number?
Additionally, protect all documents that contain personal information. Keep any documentation containing your child’s info, like medical bills or social security cards, locked away. And if you need to dispose of any documentation that includes personal information, make sure to use a shredder before throwing away. Finally, you should delete personal information before disposing of your computer or cell phone.
If your child has fallen a victim to identity theft, there are a couple of steps you should take.
- Report and close fraudulent accounts
- Freeze your child’s credit report
- Report child identity theft to the FTC here
Always be vigilant about your children’s identity before it gets worse. Due to a child’s identity often going undetected, the experience can cause many grievances for the child’s future. Child Identity theft can affect credit scores often used to determine credit card approvals, rent eligibility, student loan approval, and more. All of which may be essential to living life in the US.
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