We make sure our children use seat belts in the car, wear helmets when they bike, and never run with scissors. But there is one danger we may not be considering: identity theft. According to Identity Theft Resource Center, 1.3 million children’s records are stolen each year. And a study by Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab found children are 51 times more likely than adults to fall victim to identity theft.
Since it is estimated half of child identity theft victims are under the age of six, the crime often isn’t detected for 10 to 15 years, when the child becomes old enough to apply for credit and is turned down. So awareness and vigilance are essential to protect your children’s or grandchildren’s identity. Here are some steps to consider:
Guard their Social Security number. Like adult Social Security cards, children’s cards should never be carried. Leave the Social Security number field on medical, sport, and school forms blank. Or add zeros to satisfy the requirement.
Protect other personal information. Opt out of social directories that feature full names, dates of birth, addresses, phone numbers, and pictures. Don’t put a decal on your vehicle that shows the number of children in the family and their names or a sign in your yard wishing them a happy birthday or congratulating them for graduating. Educate children on the importance of not sharing their personal information, including their real names on social media. Always monitor their online communication and who it’s with.
Place a security freeze on all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). This stops lenders from being able to access the report when criminals try to apply for credit cards or loans. In most cases, there won’t be an existing credit file. So they will create one for you and then freeze it. Freezing credit doesn’t cost anything; you can visit each of the three websites to download their specific forms and instructions.
Heed warning signs. If a child receives a credit card application, bill, or collection call for something they didn’t purchase, or a notice from the IRS saying they didn’t pay income taxes, someone may be misusing their information.
If you believe your child or grandchild may have become a victim of identity theft or fraud, contact our office. We are here to assist you.