Your child is 50% more likely to be a victim of identity theft then you are. Crazy huh? Especially because your 5-year old is not swiping their credit card around town.
But criminals are smart. They know that children have clean social security numbers and it will often go unnoticed for years before parents discover their children’s information has been stolen and misused.
So here are few ways parents can be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to child identity theft…
Parents should be skeptical about handing over a child’s social security number to just anyone, without really understanding how it will be used. Even at a place as common as the doctor’s office or school. Be sure to ask why they need it and how they protect that information.
Make sure to lock your child’s documents up somewhere safe too. Don’t carry them in your wallet or purse, and safeguard them in your home.
Be on alert
If mail in your child’s name starts showing up for pre-approved credit cards, then you should probably run a credit check and investigate it just to be safe. Credit Sesame is a good place to go for a quick credit report check.
And obviously, if credit collectors are calling when your child has never applied for a credit card, this is a red flag.
Freeze your child’s credit
If your child does have a credit report fraudulently, then you need to immediately freeze their credit. Some people assume a child’s report is activated when a social security card is issued, however, this is not the case. A child report is only activated when a person applies for credit.
Generally, parents should run a check when children are around age six unless you notice suspicious activity before then.
You can also ask a credit bureau to place an alert fraud on the credit report and file an identity theft report online. Initial fraud alerts last 90 days and an extended fraud alert can last up to seven years.
Some people argue that freezing a child’s credit is an excellent precautionary measure. While it is an effective way to keep your child’s credit safe, security freezes aren’t available in all states and it can be rather time-consuming and difficult to do.
Legislation allows freezing minors’ credit reports in 29 states at the request of a parent or legal guardian. These states include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Fees can vary as well as the age of “children” who are considered for freezing.
Freezing credit means that no one will be allowed to open an account with your personal data or access your credit information. To freeze a child’s account you’ll need a birth certificate and sometimes proof that you need to freeze it. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion will freeze a child’s credit if a file exists and fraud has occurred.
Hopefully, your child will not be a victim of identity theft. Staying proactive and aware of suspicious activity now will help keep their credit safe in the future.