Child identity theft is a significant problem in the US. A recent report by Javelin Strategy & Research, sponsored by AARP, found that 915,000 children, or 1 in 80, were victims of identity theft in the past year.
Additionally, 1 in 43 children were affected by a data breach from July 2021 to July 2022. It’s crucial for parents to take action to protect the personal information of their children. In this guide, we provide you with simple and effective strategies to help safeguard your child’s financial future against identity theft.
What Is Child Identity Theft?
Child identity theft happens when someone uses your child’s personal information, such as their name and Social Security number, to commit fraud or obtain services or benefits. This type of theft can occur even if your child has no credit history.
Thieves can use your child’s information to open bank accounts, apply for loans, or obtain credit cards. This can cause severe consequences for your child’s future financial security.
Even worse, child identity theft often goes unnoticed for years, making it harder to fix the damage done. It’s essential to take steps to protect your child’s personal information and monitor their credit to prevent child identity theft.
Types of Child Identity Theft:
Scammers may try to obtain personal information by sending deceptive emails or making phone calls to trick you or your child.
Cybercriminals are always seeking ways to access large systems to obtain user data. No company is exempt, and if your child has an account with a compromised company, their information may be exposed.
Theft in the Family
Unfortunately, some cases of child identity theft occur within the family. Family members may steal essential documents and use them to create accounts in children’s names.
Companies that have your child’s Social Security number can be hacked, leaving your child’s personal information vulnerable. This information may be sold for a small sum of money on the dark web.
Hackers may gain entry to your or your child’s device via unsecured Wi-Fi networks, password hacking, or malware. This can result in the theft of your child’s personal information.
Sensitive information, such as your child’s Social Security number, can be stolen from mail or garbage. In some instances, criminals may bribe employees at schools or companies to get hold of confidential information.
Why Do Criminals Target Children for Identity Theft?
Criminals target children for identity theft for several reasons:
Children usually have a clean credit history, which makes it easier for criminals to open new accounts or take out loans under their names without raising suspicion.
Lengthy Discovery Time
Child identity theft can go undetected for years since children typically don’t use their credit until they reach adulthood. This delay allows criminals to continue their fraudulent activities without being caught, causing more financial damage.
Unused Social Security Numbers
Children’s Social Security numbers are often unused, making them prime targets for identity thieves. It is easier for criminals to use their SSNs to create fake identities and open new accounts.
Parents may not closely monitor their children’s personal information or credit reports, making it easier for identity thieves to operate undetected. Many parents are unaware of the need to check their child’s credit history or protect their personal information, leaving their children vulnerable to identity theft.
Warning Signs a Child Is a Victim of Identity Theft
Here are some warning signs that your child may be a victim of identity theft:
Credit Report in the Child’s Name
If a credit report exists in your child’s name, this could be a sign that someone has used their personal information to open a credit account. Parents should check their child’s credit report annually to ensure that no fraudulent accounts have been opened.
Calls from Collection Agencies
If your child starts receiving calls from collection agencies, this could indicate that someone has taken out a loan or credit card in their name and then failed to make payments on it.
Credit Cards or Pre-Approved Credit Card Offers
If your child starts receiving credit card offers or pre-approved credit offers in the mail, this could be a sign that someone has used their personal information to open a credit account.
Bills in the Child’s Name
If your child receives bills in their name, this could indicate that someone has used their personal information to open an account for services such as utilities or mobile phones.
Notice from the IRS
If you receive a notice from the IRS that your child’s name and/or SSN is already listed on another tax return, this could be a sign that someone has used their personal information to file a fraudulent tax return.
Prevention Strategies: How to Protect Your Child’s Personal Information
Ask Questions Before Giving Anyone Your Child’s Social Security Number
Before giving anyone your child’s Social Security number, ask why they need it, how they will protect it, and whether they can use a different identifier or just the last four digits of the Social Security number.
Protect Documents with Personal Information
- Store sensitive documents in a secure, locked location and shred them before discarding.
- Be cautious when sharing personal information online or over the phone.
- Limit access to your child’s personal documents.
Delete Personal Information Before Disposing of a Computer or Cell Phone
- Perform a factory reset or use data erasure software to ensure complete deletion of personal information.
- Remove SIM cards and external storage from devices before disposal.
- Consider professional disposal services for secure data destruction.
Limit the Number of Accounts and Services Your Child Signs Up For
- Discuss the importance of online privacy with your child and monitor their online activities and account creation.
- Encourage the use of strong, unique passwords for each account and use parental control software to restrict access to certain websites and services.
Teach Your Kids Not to Overshare Online (and Don’t Do It Yourself)
- Educate your child about online safety and responsible behavior.
- Start early to develop good habits that will protect them through childhood and into adulthood.
Sign Up for Family Identity Theft Protection
Sign up for identity theft protection that covers the whole family. IdentityIQ monitors everyone’s credit and helps protect them against identity theft.
Get Involved in Your Child’s Online Activity
- Be proactive in monitoring your child’s online activity to protect their personal information and identity.
- If you suspect your child has been a victim of identity theft, report it to the proper authorities.
What to Do if Your Child’s Identity Has Been Stolen
If you suspect your child’s identity has been stolen, there are several steps you can take to protect them and minimize the damage:
- Contact the credit bureaus to request a credit freeze and check for any fraudulent accounts.
- Contact financial institutions to report any unauthorized accounts or charges.
- File a report with the Federal Trade Commission and local law enforcement.
- Keep detailed records of all communications and actions taken.
- Sign up for IdentityIQ to help protect your child’s identity and monitor for any unusual activity.
- Educate your child about online safety and the importance of protecting personal information.
The Bottom Line: Keep Your Children Safe from Scammers
Protecting your child’s personal information is crucial in preventing identity theft. When you’re aware of the warning signs and implement prevention strategies, you can minimize the risk of your child falling victim to this crime.
Stay vigilant and take proactive steps to safeguard your child’s identity.
How Do You Check If Your Child’s Identity Has Been Stolen?
To check if your child’s identity has been stolen, you can request a copy of their credit report from the three major credit bureaus: Equifax®, Experian®, and TransUnion®. Look for any suspicious activity or accounts opened in their name.
What Are Two Things a Criminal May Do with a Stolen Child’s Identity?
Criminals may use a stolen child’s identity to open credit accounts or take out loans in the child’s name. They may also use the stolen identity for employment purposes, such as to obtain a job or government benefits.
Can You Put a Block on Your Child’s Social Security Number?
Putting a block on a child’s Social Security number is not possible.
How Do I Verify My Child’s Identity?
Verifying your child’s identity typically involves providing proof of their identity using documents such as a birth certificate, passport, or Social Security card. You may also need to provide other personal information, such as their full name, date of birth, and address.