Do you have minor children? Do you know if they have debt? They should not have debt. Unfortunately, our nation has seen a rise in identity theft of children. According to Kelli B. Grant’s recent article on CNBC, more than a million children were victims of identity theft last year. The scary and sad part is that most of the victims were age 7 or under, and most of the victims personally knew the perpetrator. It has become very apparent this is not an adult problem.
How Does Child Identity Theft Occur?
The identity theft can occur in several different ways: it can be compromised in data breaches; a family friend or relative can steal the social security number and identity to obtain credit; or a neighbor or someone in close contact with the sensitive information can use it surreptitiously.
How do you recognize your child’s identity has been compromised? First, you may be notified by a company or organization that sensitive data has been breached. Second, you may receive collection or credit offer phone calls for the minor child. Third, you could receive mail in the form of bills, letters or offers of credit for the minor child or even phone calls for the minor child.
The scariest part of all of this is that sometimes the social security number given to your child has already been tainted. It has been dubbed “synthetic identity theft.” In the mid-2011 time frame, the U.S. changed to randomized social security numbers, so thieves could potentially create new identities around a profile before there is ever a victim. As mentioned earlier, the majority of the identity thefts of minors occurs by a family member or someone close to the minor (and not by a thief) before the child is born.
How to Prevent Child Identity Theft
What steps can you take to prevent identity theft of a minor child?
- Keep the number out of circulation, or don’t give out the social security number unless it is absolutely required.
- Keep financial documents locked up and password protect any electronic devices.
- Freeze your child’s credit. You can put a freeze on credit with the three major credit reporting agencies.
- Keep alert for any red flags. Watch for mail in the minor’s name or collection calls for the minor.