Child Identity Theft Is a Problem You Can’t Ignore
More than 1.25 million children became victims of identity theft in the last year according to a study by Javelin Strategy & Research. The actual number is likely much greater because in many instances child identity theft is not discovered until they reach the age of 18.
The theft of a child’s identity causes major problems for the child as they grow up, and it has become a big national problem. A recent study released by the Carnegie Mellon CyLab revealed that children are 51 times more likely to become a victim of identity theft than adults. 51 times!
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has said that “synthetic identity theft” is the fastest growing type of identity theft and that children are the most common victims of this type of crime. Synthetic identity theft occurs when a criminal combines real and fake information to create an all-new identity to take out loans, purchase goods, or fraudulently obtain credit cards.
These fake ID’s often use just the child’s Social Security number combined with a bogus date of birth, name, phone number, and address of someone else. Criminals can use this synthetic ID as their own for years without anyone catching on to their scam. They can build a credit profile, get a cell phone account, get loans, get a job, and apply for government benefits. They can also make big purchases like a car or a boat.
When the child victim grows up and applies for their driver’s license, their first credit card, or applies for college, they are shocked to find out they’ve already got a credit profile, outstanding loans, and maybe even a job history with W-2s. They may have had tax returns filed in their name for years. Their credit could be a complete mess that takes years to fix. And in a worst-case scenario, they could have a criminal record, liens, or judgments against them.
Before this nightmare scenario plays out for your child, here’s what you can do.
Limit sharing your child’s information
Guard all personal information about your child carefully on social media, with doctors, and with schooling. Try to limit the places that have your child’s Social Security number. Push back on requests for your child’s personal information. You have every right to ask what why they need the information and what they’ll do with it.
Become familiar with the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act which helps you protect the privacy of your child’s school records and enables you to opt out of information sharing by the school with third parties.
Freeze your child’s credit
You also should freeze the credit reports of your children. Until 2018 there was no national law that allowed the credit reports of children to be frozen, but in the wake of the major Equifax data breach, Congress passed new laws that now permit children’s credit reports to be frozen and unfrozen for free.
Here are the links to information about how to freeze your child’s credit reports at each of the three major credit reporting agencies.
Monitor for child ID theft
With such high risks for children, you should strongly consider having an ID theft monitoring and protection plan in place for your child until they turn 18. (At that point, they should have their own monitoring and protection in place.) You should be proactively monitoring at least the dark web, the USPS address change database, utilities and public records databases for the fraudulent use of your child’s data.
Find a good family plan like our iDefend family protection platform that does this type of monitoring for your children. A little extra vigilance and protection goes a long way to safeguarding your child’s personal information and their financial future!
If you believe your child has already had their identity stolen, notify each of the three credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion of the crime and ask them to investigate and remove the false information from yours and your child’s files. Then freeze your child’s credit reports, and be sure you have proactive ID theft monitoring in place for your child going forward.
How can I get affordable protection for my child?
If you are already on one of our protection plans such as iDefend or through one of our partner organizations, and you haven’t added family coverage yet, you can add full family coverage for you, your spouse and all children up to the age of 18 for just a few extra dollars per month.
To learn more about our family protection plans and see your options, login to your iDefend account. You can also call our customer service team here at INVISUS at (801) 724-6211 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.