You may have heard the warnings about identity theft, but did you know that your children may fall victim to identity theft, too?
Statistics show that it happens. Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab found that 10.2 percent of 40,000 children involved in a 2011 study were victims of identity theft.
Childhood identity theft may have long-term financial implications. It can potentially affect a child’s ability to take out a student loan, receive a scholarship or get a credit card. Identity theft may even impact future job opportunities, according to the study.
How do you know if your child’s identity has been stolen? Be vigilant about protecting your child’s identity and watch for the following red flags, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC):
1. Credit card offers. If you’ve received one or more unsolicited credit card offers in your child’s name, it could indicate someone is using their information fraudulently. Credit card offers are never intentionally sent to minors.
2. Social Security account statement. These statements track annual contributions and anticipated benefits. Unless your child has a part-time job, an earnings statement in your child’s name is a clear indicator of fraud.
3. A bill or a collection agency call for your child. Don’t dismiss this as a case of mistaken identity. A call from a bill or a collection agency can be a sign of identity theft.
4. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) contacts you about your child. If the IRS informs you that your toddler hasn’t paid his income taxes, this is a warning sign that someone may be masquerading as your son.
Identity protection for your child starts with some privacy precautions. According to the FTC, these tips may help reduce your child’s risk for identity theft:
1. Be proactive. Start by checking with the fraud divisions of all three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Credit reporting agencies typically do not keep a report on file for minors. If there is a report, then there’s a good chance that your child’s identity is compromised.
2. Consider purchasing identity restoration coverage. This type of coverage may help protect you and your family against identity theft and potentially repair any damage to your identity.
3. Be cautious with your child’s Social Security number. If a school, youth sports team or a medical office asks for your child’s Social Security number, know that it’s OK to question why they need it, what they will do with it and how they plan to keep it safe.
4. Shred anything with your child’s personal information. Shred forms, documents and mail before disposal.
5. Never carry your child’s Social Security card. To help reduce the risk for theft or loss, leave you child’s card — and the cards of all the members of your family — in a secure place, like a safe at home or a safe deposit box.
If you find out that someone has stolen your child’s identity, there are steps you can take to help minimize the damage. If you discovered that a credit report fraudulently exists for your child, contact any one of the three major credit bureaus (each bureau is legally required to alert the other two) and ask them to put a “fraud alert” on the file. Report the identity theft to the FTC. Also, contact your local police department to file a report.
By taking a few simple proactive steps, and staying alert to early warning signs, you may help reduce your child’s risk for identity theft or the impact it could have should it ever occur.
Originally published February 13, 2013.