Child identity theft is when someone steals or uses a minor’s identifying information as their own. They might use it for financial gain, in which case they’ve obtained a minor’s social security number and use it to get credit. They might also use it to help them get a driver’s license. There have also been instances when people have obtained a minor’s identity and sold it to illegal immigrants or people who want to change their identity to avoid arrest or some other negative consequence.
In more than half of the cases, a relative or close family friend is the identity thief in child identity theft cases, but it’s not always someone who knows the child. As a parent you must be diligent in protecting your child’s information. Never put your child’s social security number on non-essential forms such as sports registrations and always shred any documents that have account numbers and social security numbers. Another thing you can do is check your child’s credit report once a year to make sure there is no strange activity taking place.
People who want to begin using someone else’s identity turn to children as prime targets of identity theft for two main reasons: One, they often have spotless records so people are able to use the information to gain credit. Two, identity thieves are often not detected for years because most children don’t have any reason to check their credit reports. The Identity Theft Resource Center reports that only 4% of reported identity theft cases are for people under the age of 18, but they also explain the number is probably much higher because many cases have yet to be detected.
Your teenagers might be sorely disappointed when they head into the DMV to get their driver’s license or learner’s permit and are told that they cannot get one because there is already a driver’s license issued to their social security number. Even worse, your child might not find out about a theft of his or her identity until he or she is a young adult and trying to apply for a loan. Probably the worst case scenario would be when the police show up at your door with an arrest warrant in your child’s name because someone committed a crime using your child’s name. While this is a very extreme case, if someone uses your child’s identity for financial gain, at the very minimum, be prepared to spend years working to clear his or her record of the stains left by the thief.
There are some signs that might tip you off that your child may be the victim of identity theft before it comes to that, however. (If you experience any of these signs, it’s very important to have your child’s credit checked to see if there is any unlawful activity and to report any known incidences to the police. )
- Your child begins receiving pre-approved credit card offers or bank statements in the mail.
- Your child begins getting calls from telemarketers that directly ask for them.
- Your child is denied the right to a driver’s license because someone already has one under his or her social security number.
Five Tips to Help You Prevent Identity Theft (for you and your family)
1. Limit access to your family’s social security numbers by never providing it on non-essential forms and by finding out why people are asking for it. If they want it for identifying purposes, simply request that they assign your or your family member a different identifying number.
2. Always shred any papers that have social security and account numbers.
3. Never give out your personal information over the phone or internet.
4. Protect your credit card numbers and checks when shopping so that people are not able to see them and memorize the information while waiting in line behind you.
5. Teach your children to not give out personal identifying information to anyone, especially over the internet.
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