If you have children keeping them safe is your top priority, but it often doesn’t cross our minds if their identities are safe.
When we think of identity theft, we often think of an adult whose account has been hacked or lost their wallet, and someone is using their credit cards. But a study at Carnegie Mellon University found that 10 percent of children have someone else using their Social Security number.
This statistic can be scary because most people don’t even realize their child has been a victim of identity theft until they are about ready to leave home for the first time. John Krebs, the Identity Theft Program manager at the Federal Trade Commission, said a thief can keep that Social Security number going for a number of years before somebody is going to look at it.
This is why scammers prefer targeting your child’s information because they have a spotless credit report and the identity theft is less likely to be discovered. The consequences can be very damaging and can take years to correct. It can stunt your child’s opportunity for independence and takes time to follow paper trails to correct their credit report. Also finding the person who did this can be very difficult, especially if it happened years earlier.
But you don’t have to feel preyed upon; there are steps you can take to lessen your child’s risk of being a victim. Avoid giving out your child’s Social Security number unless you absolutely must. Also, watch what information your children are putting online about themselves can help. A vital step to keeping them safe includes checking your child’s credit report especially when they turn 16.
Experian says they do not knowingly maintain credit reports for your child, so if you go to check they may not have one. Unless you have added them to one of your accounts or unless someone has fraudulently opened one in their name.
There are signs that your child’s identity may have been compromised. One sign is if you receive a bill sent to your home in your child’s name or are called by collection agency asking for you child. If this happens to you and your child don’t panic, there are ways to fix the problem.
The FTC says you should call each credit reporting company and contact any business where your child’s information was misused. Visit IdentityTheft.gov/child to get more steps on rectifying the situation. Additionally, you can report the theft and any other fraud or scams to the BBB Scam Tracker at bbb.org/scamtracker.
Jeremy Johnson is the eastern Idaho marketplace manager for Better Business Bureau, serving the Northwest and Pacific. Contact her at by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.