According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, 1.3 million children are victims of identity theft each year. These records are stolen to open credit lines in the child’s name. Thousands, and even millions, of dollars, are usually stolen.
If you want to avoid this, you should be taking steps to ensure your child doesn’t become a victim of identity theft.
How you can protect your child from identity theft
Here’s what you should be doing to protect your child from identity theft:
Keep Your Child’s Social Security Number Private
You shouldn’t be giving out your child’s social security number to anyone, unless of course necessary. In many cases, the child’s close relatives are the perpetrators. They have easy access to the number, and no one would think they would do the child any harm.
Other than social security number, you should also keep birth certificates, tax returns and other personal and financial documents locked and out of sight. Don’t carry them with you. If you have a document you want to discard, don’t throw it away. Pass it through a shredder. Also, talk to your child’s school regarding their policy on identity theft prevention for minors.
Check if your child has a credit report
Your child shouldn’t have a credit report, because he hasn’t taken out any loan at this point. But if he has one that’s a clear indication that your child is a victim of identity theft. You can request a credit report from any of the three credit reporting bureaus. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You will have to provide your child’s SSN number and your child’s name.
If you detect anything suspicious, you should immediately request a credit freeze.
Freeze their credit
This is the best way to avoid identity theft. When you freeze credit, you or anybody else will be able to take out any loan or establish a credit line. Your child doesn’t need a credit line or a loan, so it doesn’t affect your financial situation when you freeze their credit. If your child is a minor, you can do it on his behalf. You will have to bring in documents to prove your relationship.
Recently, the Senate passed a bill that allows people to freeze and unfreeze their credit without having to pay a fee. This means it is free of cost.
However, even after you freeze credit, thieves can still get free medical care on your child’s name. They can also get a job, apply for government benefits and file taxes.
Monitor Online Activity
Regularly check your child’s devices. Check what kind of personal or other information they have entered in their devices. Install a good parental control software. If you are afraid your child might be a victim, consider installing an identity theft protection service.
Always be on the alert. There is an increased chase of identity theft:
- After a burglary: If there has been a theft in your home, go through personal documents too. Check if your child’s SSN number is stolen along with his iPad.
- Data Breach Notice: Schools and other businesses dealing with children are often victims of data breaches. The purpose is usually child identity theft. If you get a notice of such a data breach, review your child’s credit line.
- After hosting a big party, or during stay overs: In one-third of cases, child identity thefts are done by relatives and friends. Keep your documents locked and be extra vigilant when hosting big parties.
- Take Court Notices Seriously: If you receive a court notice in your child’s name, don’t throw it out. It probably isn’t sent by mistake. Or if you get an email from IRS telling you that your child has pending tax payments.
Talk To Your Child
Bring your child into the picture. Talk to him about the dangers of identity theft. Education should start at an early age. A few things you should be discussing with your child:
- Explain identity theft, and what it’s consequences are. Bring the discussion down your child’s level. Use simple language.
- Talk about stranger danger. We also tell our children not to talk to strangers. But as discussed above, even relatives can be dangerous in some cases. Tell your child never to discuss any personal information with anyone, before asking permission from parents. Don’t share SSN number with your child. If you do, explain to them why it needs to be kept private.
- Online Sharing. Extend the concept of stranger danger in the online world. It’s easier to convince a child to share personal information online. Keep a check on your child’s online activity. Regularly discuss the importance of not sharing personal information. Educate them on how they can detect red flags online.
If there has been identity theft, you should report it immediately. File a report and go through all the above-listed steps.