Identity Theft Isn’t Just An Adult Problem Child Identity Theft and How To Prevent It

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What Is Child Identity Theft? 

You probably have a good sense of your credit history and credit score, but have you ever checked your child’s history and credit report? Well, why would you? They’re too young to be opening bank accounts and putting loans down on houses. It’s something most parents don’t even think about. What if I told you that more than one million children age 7 and younger fall victim to identity theft and fraud each year, resulting in $666,6 million in the United States. 

So, why does this happen? A child’s identity is extremely attractive – their social security and credit history represent a clean, untouched slate. And because children don’t use their social security number or apply for credit cards until much later on in life, this gives thieves enough time to do some damage. 

With a child’s information, such as their full names, date of birth, addresses and social security number, just about anybody can open bank accounts, obtain a driver’s license, get a job, and even buy homes and cars. A thief can pair any name and birthdate with a stolen security number, creating a false identity. Child identity theft is an easy crime to commit, and it’s a crime that goes unnoticed for years. 

Who Steals A Child’s Identity?

When we think of thieves, we picture silhouettes of hackers in dark face masks – scary people that do bad things. But the truth is, your mom or dad could be stealing your identity. And they could ruin your credit too. It’s disturbing to think about, but family members can often be the culprits of child identity theft. If a parent has a messed up credit, an “easy” solution may be to steal their child’s social security number and take full advantage of it. Parents don’t have to do much in order to steal their child’s identity because they already have all the key information they need in order to open bank accounts and credit lines. This may seem justifiable to some parents – because they are the parents, but in reality it causes a lot more harm than a parent may realize. 

It may be hard to wrap your mind around the fact that some parents actually steal the identity of their children – it happened to a close friend of mine in college. Her father had opened several credit cards in her name, while forgetting to pay them off. After calling the police and reporting fraud, the investigation led to her own home – to her own father. She was left in a tough situation and had to choose between protecting her father or protecting her future. Child identity fraud really does happen all too often.

Along with child fraud is foster fraud. Children in foster care are ever more vulnerable as people come in and out of their lives. Case managers, foster parents, and relatives have access to a lot of children’s personal information and some won’t hesitate to use it and take advantage of it. 

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Signs To Look Out For

Thankfully, there are a few signs to look out for that suggest your child may be a victim of identity theft. One of the many perks of being a child is that they don’t have to deal with “adult life” tasks or responsibilities. Such as receiving calls and letters in the mail regarding payments, or other information that a child shouldn’t typically receive. Especially things like calls from collection agencies or letters suggesting they’ve been denied government benefits. If your child does receive something concerning an adult matter, you shouldn’t ignore it. First, do some digging and investigate why your child is receiving this kind of information, be sure that your child may actually be a victim of identity fraud. You can contact the Federal Trade Commission to report the identity fraud and start working on a recovery plan. You can also contact your local law enforcement and get a police report on the matter. 

Here are some red flags you should look out for: 

  • Your child receives calls from collection agencies. 
  • Your child receives bills or credit card forms. 
  • Your child is denied common government benefits. 
  • The IRS tries to contact your child.
  • Your child is denied from bank and credit companies. 
  • Your child is denied from the DMV for a driver’s license. 

Repair Your Credit and Child Identity

When it comes to repairing your credit and identity, waste no time. Now is not the moment for procrastination. The sooner you recognize unauthorized charges on your credit report and report them to companies, the sooner you can begin to slowly rebuild your credit. Once this is done, you can place fraud alerts on your credit reports to prevent any more damage from happening. You can also place a credit freeze to avoid any more money from being spent. 

If you’ve fallen victim to credit or identity fraud, most creditors expect you to contact the police and file an identity theft report. It’s important to give the police department as much information as you can and get a copy of the report you’ve filed with law enforcement – the document will help you keep track of the date and time you contacted them as well as the police officers you spoke with. 

When you notify creditors that you’ve become a victim to identity theft, they’re likely to close your current credit card accounts and send you a replacement card with a new account number. If you recognize fraudulent charges quickly, you are less likely to be held responsible. 

Child Protection  

We hear about data breaches often, so it may not be so shocking to hear about the identity theft that can follow. While we may be checking our credit histories and bank accounts, you may want to get in the habit of checking your child’s at the same time. 

By regularly checking the state of your child’s identity can help you report it quicker therefore your child will not be held responsible for the fraud. 

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