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Protecting Your Kids From Identity Theft

learning to protect kids from identity theft

Knowing how to protect your kids from identity theft is crucial information to know to safeguard their futures. If their identities are stolen when they are children, it can cause them problems in the future when they apply for jobs, for college, or for credit; (an apartment, home or car.)

How are child identities stolen?

A child’s Social Security number can be used by identity thieves to apply for government benefits, open bank and credit card accounts, apply for a loan or utility service, or rent a place to live. Check for a credit report to see if your child’s information is being misused. If it is, visit IdentityTheft.gov to report and recover from identity theft.

Social Security Numbers are a Prime Target for Child Identity Theft

Social Security Numbers are a Prime Target for Child Identity Theft

If the child does have a poor credit rating due to stolen identity, it can take years to clear it up. It is likely that the first credit issued to the child will be at an extremely high-interest rate or that little credit will be offered.

Cyber thieves target children because their identities offer a clean slate with which to apply for bank accounts, credit cards or loans, government benefits and tax breaks. Criminals will often combine a child’s Social Security number with a fake date of birth and address to avoid suspicion, experts say.

While an adult may quickly learn that his or her identity has been stolen when he or she receives an exceptionally high credit card bill with unrecognized charges, the loss of a child’s identity may not be realized for many years, until the child is grown and just beginning to operate independently. When a child applies for college loans or scholarships, this may be the first time an identity theft problem is revealed.

Why identity theft may be hidden for years

There are several reasons child-identity theft may not be discovered for years.

  • The child may not need to use credit until years after the identity was stolen, and thus only discovers the problem years later.
  • A teenage child might be an authorized user for a credit card. Any fraudulent credit usage might not be discovered until later.
  • Data breaches of computer information are becoming more common.  Everyone’s information is less secure.

Some data breaches do not necessarily have to do with financial records. For example, a digital toy company, where the child registers in order to have access to the learning games or digital information, could be breached. The effect is the same. The child’s data is now exposed for someone else to use.

Parents/Guardians must protect the child

It is really up to the parent/guardian to protect the child. There is no government agency that prevents the theft of child records. So what is a mother or father to do?

Protecting your kids from Identity Theft is crucial for their financial future

Protecting your kids from Identity Theft is crucial for their financial future

There are several things you can do to protect your child:

  • Teach them from an early age to limit how much they share on the internet. Consider using pseudo-user-names instead of real names for game sites or educational sites.
  • Visit with each organization that may require your child’s information. Your school is one of those organizations. Ask the school to protect your child’s information to protect the child from identity theft.
  • Make sure that any record with the child’s information is protected from anyone who might visit your apartment or home, for example, a babysitter or a relative with a poor credit rating.
  • Shred any papers you do not need that contain the child’s personal information.
  • Consider keeping the legal papers you do need, such as the child’s birth certificate and social security card, in a bank box. Remember, though, if you do use a bank box, you are only able to retrieve those documents when the bank is open, usually from around 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon on weekdays only. So plan ahead if you will need to retrieve the papers for any reason.

What are some indications your child’s identity has been stolen?

monitor for ID Theft

Be vigilant and watch for signs of ID Theft

  • When a child goes to obtain a driver’s license, and the state says that one already exists, that is an indication that there has been a security breach.
  • If the child gets mail or offers for loyalty programs, this may indicate a security breach. The mail may be a follow-up to someone earlier using the child’s information to sign up for something.
  • Finding out government benefits are being paid to someone else through your child’s social security number
  • Getting a tax notice from the IRS saying that you child did not pay income taxes
  • Getting collection notices addressed to your child

What else can you do to protect your child’s identity? Share your comments with us and give us your tips and stories -- we can learn from each other!

Consumer Education Services, Inc. (CESI) is a non-profit committed to empowering and inspiring consumers nationwide to make wise financial decisions and live debt free. Speak with a certified counselor for a free debt analysis today

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