A fraudster can pull off quite a few different scams if they manage to hold a child’s personal information. These criminals can sign up for utility services, open credit accounts, and even apply for government benefits using the child’s name. Child identity theft is fast becoming more prevalent than adult identity theft. More than one million children were the victims of ID theft in 2017. Two-thirds of these cases were of children under the age of 7 years.
Why Are Children Targets of Identity Theft?
The reasons for this are pretty simple. Social security (SS) numbers that have never been used for financial purposes before is far more valuable to a fraudster than an adult’s credit score that might be below.
In other words, any social security number that has never been used for financial services has a much higher credit value than an existing one with a bad credit score.
Clear Credit Listing
The fraudster can build up the child’s credit to produce a clear credit listing. This makes it easy for them to gain loan approval or successfully apply for a credit card, among other things.
Years of Using the Child’s Identity
The theft may not be discovered until after the child turns 18. They learn of it when they try to apply for a driver’s license or a student loan and are turned down.
Sadly, it is often the parents themselves, a relative, or a close family friend who is the perpetrator of the crime. This sometimes starts simply as a means to get housing but often escalates when the fraudster discovers how easy it is.
It is relatively simple to take an existing SS number and add a false name, address, and age. Once that’s accomplished, hackers are free to use that information as they like, as the banks and credit bureaus believe it belongs to an entirely new person.
Sadly, 60% of all child identity thieves know their victims personally. When the fraudulent activity eventually comes to light, the child (and parents) may not be willing to press charges. Often, the perpetrator intended to keep the credit sound. However, life doesn’t always work out as planned. It will be the child who suffers.
How Do I Know if My Child Has Been a Victim of Identity Theft?
You can ensure that your child has not been a victim of identity theft is to contact all three national agencies and requesting their credit reports. These agencies are TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. This should be done once a year and is free of charge. Other red flags include:
- Warnings and Collection Calls. If your child starts receiving collection calls from debt-collecting agencies, or IRS warnings, it could be an administrative error. Still, it might be that your child’s identity has been stolen for illegal purposes.
- Turned Down for Previously Unclaimed Benefits. If you are turned down when seeking government benefits for your child for the first time, someone could have already been claiming them using your child’s SS number.
- Turned Down When Applying for Student Loan. If your child is turned down when applying for a student loan, it could signify previous (or current) illicit activity using your child’s personal information.
How To Protect Your Child’s Personal Information
Knowledge is essential when it comes to identity theft protection. Half of the battle is won if a parent knows what to watch out for and what to check.
Here are some ways to protect your child’s sensitive information.
- Do Not Carry Your Child’s Social Security Card Unless Absolutely Necessary. A social security card is easily lost and may be picked up by a criminal.
- Discriminate Before Divulging. Before giving out your child’s SS number, ensure it is entirely necessary. Ask how it will be stored to ensure safety measures are in place.
- Shred Documents. Don’t just throw away documents containing personal information. Instead, shred them before discarding them.
- Don’t Post Photos of Children Online. Hackers use geocoding features to discover geographic locations that make it easier to steal your child’s identity.
- Ensure That Your Child Is Aware. Educate your child about the dangers of giving out personal information. Don’t give them their social security number until you know they understand why and how to protect it.
No one wants to embark on adult life with a bad credit score (through no fault of their own). Your top priority as a parent is to protect your child. By taking the above steps, you can ensure that they do not become victims of identity theft.
Please take this article seriously, as this form of criminal activity is becoming more prevalent. As a parent, you have to ensure your child’s financial future is as stable as possible.
It’s your job to give them the best start possible. You can ensure identity theft protection through a free identity theft scan. This will help you detect any criminal activity using your child’s identity.