As adults, we are told to protect our identity and monitor our credit report for identity theft, but have you ever considered that your child might be a target as well? According to the Federal Trade Commission, child identity theft is on the rise.
A 2012 Child Identity Fraud Survey Report conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research found that one in 40 households surveyed had at least one child whose personal information, typically their social security number, had been compromised.
Children are attractive targets, because their credit history is a clean slate, and stealing their identity can go undetected for years. Since most parents aren’t aware that this can be an issue, it may not be discovered until the child is older and applies for a job, car loan, or financial aid.
If you are a parent, here are a few tips to help safeguard your children’s identity and credit history:
- Give out your child’s social security number only when necessary. There are times when you will need to give out the full social security number, such as during school enrollment. However, there are also times when it may be asked for, but isn’t really a requirement. In these cases, giving the last four digits should suffice.
- Teach children to be conscious about what they share on the internet. Identity thieves often scan social networking sites for information such as dates of birth and addresses. Also, discuss with your child basic computer security, such as the importance of keeping their passwords private and avoiding downloading material from unfamiliar sources.
- Inspect mail addressed to your child. Junk mail, such as preapproved credit card offers, could be a red flag that their identity has been compromised.
- Keep all personal records in a safe place. If you are discarding documents that contain your child’s personal information, be sure to shred them before throwing them away.
- Consider using credit monitoring and ID theft protection for your family. For a nominal fee, companies such as Equifax can monitor your family’s credit history and notify you if there have been any key changes.
If you suspect your child’s identity has been stolen, check to see if they have a credit history. If they are under the age of 18, and do have a credit report, there is a good chance their identity has already been compromised.
If your child is a victim of identity theft, here are some steps you can take to repair the damage:
- Contact each of the credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and Transunion.
- Place a fraud alert on your child’s credit report. You only need to contact one of the credit reporting companies to do so – they will contact the other two.
- File a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online or call 877-438-4338. If the fraud relates to medical services or taxes, you might need to file a police report, too.