Child Identity Theft

As a grown-up, it is easy to worry about how identity theft can affect you, but as a parent you should be aware of how your child could be victimized by identity thieves. Child identity theft is very real and very serious. In fact, children's Social Security numbers are targeted for theft much more than adults' Social Security numbers are.

Identity Theft & Children

Why Children Are Targeted

Children are easy targets for identity theft because the main systems that are in place to protect adults don't exist for children. This lowers the likelihood of an identity thief getting caught.

Children, unlike many adults, do not:

  • Check their credit reports (if one exists for the child).
    • As an adult, one way you can stay on top of credit fraud is by regularly checking your credit report. Parents and children almost never have credit reports on their minds.
  • Apply for loans or credit.
    • You might not be aware that your identity has been stolen until you are unexpectedly rejected for a loan or credit. Since children don't take out loans, this process will not apply to them.
  • Have credit cards.
    • Credit cards often come with fraud protection that will warn you when abnormal behavior is seen on your credit card.
    • These credit fraud protections mean very little when a child isn't even aware that a credit card has been opened under their name.

In addition to the lack of credit protection and monitoring, ID thieves target children because their clean credit histories aren't likely to hinder the thieves when using the stolen Social Security numbers.

How Children Are Targeted

One of the main tactics employed with children is to use their Social Security number (SSN). An identity thief is able to attach any name and birth date to a Social Security number in order to:

  • Open credit cards.
  • Get a loan.
  • Get a driver's license.
  • Get a job.

ID thieves will even sell your child's Social Security number to people who are looking to obtain a new identity.

Warning Signs of Child ID Theft

If your child begins receiving any of the following, he or she may be a victim of identity theft:

  • Pre-approved credit or loan offers via mail.
  • Bills or collection calls for purchases he or she did not make.
  • Notices from the IRS for unpaid taxes.

Additionally, if your child gets turned down for benefits, such as health care, it may be a sign that somebody else is being covered for those benefits using your child's SSN.

If you suspect that your child has become a victim of identity theft, you should take immediate action.

Child Identity Theft Recovery

Contact Credit Reporting Bureaus

The first step you should take when you suspect that your child's identity has been stolen is to check if your child has a credit report. Contact each of the major credit reporting bureaus, including:

These companies may require you to provide copies of:

  • Your child's:
    • Social Security card.
    • Birth certificate.
  • Your:
    • Government-issued photo ID.
    • Proof of address.

Ask each reporting company to do a manual check for your child. This involves checking your child's Social Security number along with his or her name, and checking only the SSN.

If you DO find that your child has a damaged credit report, send a letter to each credit reporting company asking them to remove the following from your child's credit report:

  • Accounts.
  • Inquires.
  • Collection notices.

You will also have to explain that your child is a minor and include a Uniform Minor's Status Declaration with the letters.

Place a Fraud Alert

In addition to checking your child's potential credit report, ask the credit reporting bureaus to place a fraud alert on your child's SSN. This will temporarily stop anyone from using your child's identity for any credit-related purposes.

The credit bureau you contact is required to inform the other credit bureaus of the fraud alert.

Report the Identity Theft

You will have to report your child's identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can file a fraud report through one of the following avenues:

The FTC will also guide you towards reporting your child's identity theft with law enforcement officials.

Child Identity Theft Prevention

The best way you can help prevent you child's identity from being stolen is by knowing how your child's personal information is being used and handled.

Schools can be a big target for identity thieves because they keep records of so many students. It is important that you understand how your child's school is using and storing personal information. Keep in constant communication with the school to ensure the safety of your child's identity.

Another major step you can take to protect your child's identity is to talk to your child. Make sure your child understands the importance of his or her personal information, and warn your child of the dangers of giving out personal information.

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