Identity theft is a familiar hazard, but did you know that child identity theft is on the rise? A study by Javelin Strategy and Research found that over a million children were victims of identity fraud in 2017.
When an adult’s identity is stolen, it can often be caught quickly due to bank alerts and credit report discrepancies. Child identity theft can go undetected for many years, and can have serious consequences for victims.
Your child may not discover their identity has been stolen until he or she applies for a student loan and is denied due to a bad credit history.
Fortunately, as a parent there are some clear steps you can take to protect your child from identity theft. Read on to learn prevention strategies and how to recognize and respond if the information has already been compromised.
7 ways to protect your child from identity theft
Keep your child’s information safe
Lock up your child’s important paper documents, such as his or her Social Security card and birth certificate, and make sure any information that you store electronically is password protected. Sadly, 60 percent of child victims know their identity thief personally, with the highest perpetrators being family members and friends.
Also, be discerning about what entities you give your child’s Social Security number to. Schools, doctor’s offices and even summer camps and little league may ask for a Social Security number, but they don’t need it.
The more locations your child’s information is stored, the higher the risk that it can be accessed by a data breach or fall into unsavory hands. If someone insists on it, ask why and request details on how it will be used, stored and protected.
Teach your child to protect his or her information
Two-thirds of victims are under the age of 8 when their data is stolen, but older children are also at risk, especially from predators online. Educate your child on which information is safe and not safe to share on the internet and teach them how to identify potential scams.
The Javelin Study found that children who experience online bullying are also nine times more likely to be victims of identity fraud. Children who are oversharing personal details on the internet are vulnerable to become targets of both emotional bullying and financial fraud.
Know the warning signs
Be alert to the warning signs that your child’s personal information has been stolen and is being used. Phone calls from debt collectors or suspicious mail such as pre-approved credit cards, financial offers, jury summonses or notices from the IRS that they owe income taxes are all major red flags.
Take data breaches seriously
If you’re notified of a data breach at your child’s school, doctor’s office or other institution that’s been entrusted with sensitive information, it’s imperative that you take action, as your child is a prime target for identity thieves.
The Javelin study found that for households notified of a data breach, 19 percent of adults affected by the breach became victims. A startling 39 percent of children were victimized.
Get theft protection
AAA members have access to a service through Experian that enables you to catch fraudsters in the act. Theft Protection includes child identity monitoring which will give you real-time alerts if someone is using your child’s data.
Freeze your child’s credit
Many states will allow you to proactively freeze your child’s credit so no one will be able to open lines of credit in his or her name. You can contact the three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) to get more information on this process.
Monitor existing accounts
If your child already has existing financial accounts open, actively monitor the account statements and keep an eye out for alerts to ensure there is no unusual activity.
What to do if your child’s identity has been stolen
If you’ve noticed some red flags and suspect your child’s identity may have been stolen, here’s what you can do next.
Contact the three major credit reporting bureaus and ask to obtain your child’s credit report. If there’s no credit report for your child it is a good sign, but contact them via writing and ask that they check manually to ensure they don’t have a file for your child.
If you receive a credit report for your child, chances are that fraud has occurred. Let the credit bureaus know that your child is a minor and a victim of identity fraud. Ask them to place a fraud alert on your child’s file and to remove the fraudulent activity. Then file a report with the Federal Trade Commission.
Child identity theft is a real threat. What will you do to ensure your child’s information is secure?