Picture this: Your child worked hard her entire life, always played by the rules, earned good grades in high school, and has been accepted to the college of her choice. It should be a time for celebration. But, when your child applies for student loans, she is denied. It’s only then that you realize she has been a victim of identity theft for years. This scenario may sound like a nightmare, but for far too many families, this is a reality.
Child identity theft is very common
According to Kenneth Abbe of the Federal Trade Commission, “The rate of child identity theft is about 50 times higher than adults.” That equals one out of every ten children who have had their identity stolen. This elevated risk is because children, unfortunately, make the best targets.
One of the main reasons identity thieves try to steal the identity of minors is because they generally have good credit. Chances are, your 11-year-old hasn’t defaulted on a loan. But, he had a Social Security number, and that’s all it takes to become a victim in today’s world.
Second, when an identity thief successfully steals the personal data of a minor, there’s a good chance they can exploit the child’s identity for many years without getting caught. Often, parents don’t realize a child’s identity has been stolen until their child applies for student loans, attempts to get a car, or tries to open a cellphone plan.
By then, the problem can take years to fix.
How does a child get their identity stolen?
Even though your children aren’t opening credit cards in their name, their Social Security numbers are used so much it certainly seems like they are. School records, summer camps, doctor’s offices, summer jobs, extracurricular activities — more often than not, these require you to reveal Social Security numbers and other identifying data.
Just like adults, children are also at risk of having their personal information revealed during a data breach. In fact, Hawaii-based attorney Brandee Faria says that many children had their identities compromised the same time adults did during this summer’s Equifax breach. And, although she is seeking justice for her victims, no monetary amount will fix their problems overnight.
Steps you should take if your child’s identity is stolen
For a complete list of steps you should take to repair your child’s identity, you should visit the Federal Trade Commission’s official Child Identity Theft page. It’s loaded with comprehensive information and essential links you’ll need to correct the situation. Here are a few notable highlights:
- Send a letter to each credit bureau requesting they remove all accounts, inquiries, and collection notices associated with your child’s name or personal information
- Explain to Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian that the victim is a minor, and include a copy of the Uniform Minor’s Status Declaration [PDF] in your requests
- Place a fraud alert
- Consider requesting a credit freeze
- Contact businesses where your child’s information may have been misused and explain the situation
- Report the crime and create an official Identity Theft Report
- Update your files with important information, like the times and dates you make contact with companies
- Save copies of any correspondence you send to credit bureaus or other companies
And, if you’re a PrivacyArmor® participant, our team of experts will be here to help you each step of the way.
How to protect your children from identity theft
Luckily, there are actions you can take to minimize any potential damage, beginning with immediately obtaining a copy of your child’s credit report from each of the major credit bureaus. To do this, you will need to request a manual search for the child’s file, and you may be required to submit copies of your child’s Social Security card, birth certificate, and proof of address, as well as a copy of a parent’s or guardian’s government-issued identification card.
When you receive your child’s credit reports, review them for any irregularities. If you see something that looks wrong, report it ASAP. If everything seems correct, you’ll want to retain copies in a safe place so you can compare it with future reports. Since you likely won’t be alerted to any unusual activity that may come up, you’ll need to be vigilant in your monitoring.
Ensuring your children’s identities are protected will take a lot of stress off your shoulders, and you can focus on what matters most — spending time with those you love.