Identity theft is on the rise, and unfortunately, it’s not something that only adults encounter. Sometimes children’s identities can be stolen and they don’t find out until they apply for their first credit card or buy their first car. By then, the damage is often done and they are stuck with a mess to unravel. To be proactive about helping your child, here are some things you can do:
- Social Security: Check in with the Social Security Administration once a year to make sure that no one is using your child’s Social Security Number. 1 (800) 772-1213
- Check your child’s credit report. Free checks are available at – Equifax -1-800-525-6285; Experian-1-888-397-3742; TransUnion-1-800-680-7289. If you notice anything odd, you can report the fraud to them. Because by law you are entitled to once-a-year free report. Therefore, spread out the time in-between checks by checking with a different agency every few months. If there is a credit report already in existence that you did not authorize, report it. You can also place a fraud alert on file at each of these credit reporting agencies. This will make it more difficult for creditors or lenders to issue credit in your child’s name.
- Consider a free security freeze. Security freezes are an option to prevent access to your child’s credit reports. Basically, a credit report will be created for your child, then will be frozen. If you are the parent (or legal guardian) of a child under 16, you can place a security freeze on their credit reports. You’ll need to provide proof of your identity and theirs and proof that you are their parent or legal guardian. Security freezes must be placed separately with each of the three nationwide credit bureaus.
- Financial Offers. If your child starts getting pre-approved credit cards and other financial offers normally sent to adults, this may be a sign that their identity was stolen.
- Applying for Financial Aid. When your child applies for financial assistance when preparing for college, if they are turned down due to a poor credit rating, this is a red flag and you should help them check their credit report.
- Open an Account for your Child. If you attempt to open up a financial account for your child (such as a UTMA, minor bank account, etc.) you may find that an account in their name already exists. If you did not authorize this account, report it to the financial institution and credit reporting agency.
To minimize the chances of your child’s identity being stolen keep all documents that have their personal information (date of birth, social security number, birth certificate) locked up. Also, never carry any social security card with you and only share your child’s social security number when you know/trust the other party.
If you are looking to help a child whose parents may be stealing their identity, we recommend that you contact the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy at www.ocva.wa.gov or (800) 822-1067.
If your child’s identity has been stolen, here are some steps you can take:
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to report the ID theft and get a recovery plan.
- Contact your local law enforcement and get a police report.
- Contact the fraud departments of companies where accounts were opened in your child’s name. Ask them to close the account and send you a letter of confirmation. You may need to provide a copy of your child’s birth certificate and a police report.
- Contact the nationwide credit bureaus to alert them to the fraudulent activity.