Child Identity Theft: It’s Real and It’s Scary

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Identity theft has doubled in the past year for children 5 and younger. It’s difficult for many people to fathom how children could become victims when they are too young to even apply for a credit card, but criminals find ways to get around this fact. Information on an application is often taken at face value, and some reviewers fail to ask for sufficient proof of identity or age.

If someone gets a hold of private information about your child, they can use that to attempt to open accounts in your child’s name, and this often works. Many criminals are now targeting children because unless you check their reports regularly or have an identity theft protection service that includes your children, you may not notice any issues for years.

According to AllClear ID, the age of your child is only established after an application is received with his or her name. This means that if someone applies with your child’s information saying that they are 19 and the person reviewing the application doesn’t look into it very carefully, your child becomes 19 according to the agency, even if your child is really only 10. A dispute has to be proven in order for the agency to see an issue.

Because criminals can use your child’s personal information and potentially not be investigated, they often try. The added bonus for criminals is that many parents or children don’t detect identity theft for years, because most kids won’t apply for any line of credit until they are 18.

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One of the best ways you can protect your children is to get identity theft protection that covers your entire family. You also should be careful about who gets to see your kids’ private information. Per AllClear ID, children are currently being targeted 35 times more than adults. Often, the person who steals your child’s identity will be a family member or friend, but sometimes it will be a stranger. Only share your family’s private information with people who really need it, and keep it locked up in a safe place.

You should regularly monitor your kids’ credit reports — hopefully there will be nothing on there — but if you are concerned now, there are several signs that you should watch out for if you are wondering how you can tell if your child has become a victim.

If you attempt to open a savings account or other account for your child and you are told that an account already exists with his or her Social Security Number, that is a red flag. Another concern would be if you can’t open the account because you are told that there was a bad check record. You also should be concerned if you start to receive regular credit card offers in the mail. Obviously, if you receive bills or bank statements, that should also concern you.

If a collection agency starts to call you, asking for your child, your child may be a victim of identity theft. Your child also might be a victim if your teenager is denied a license because there is already one with his or her ID.

Some children don’t determine that their identity has been stolen until they are much older, and then they must suffer from denied credit, outstanding bills, an inability to rent an apartment or set up utilities, or even be denied a job. Identity theft is a huge problem, and child identity theft has the potential to go years without detection. Therefore, it can negatively affect a child’s first few years as an adult.

If you discover that your child’s identity or any of their personal information has been stolen, first you should review his or her credit report. Then you should contact the three credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Hopefully there will be no issues, but if there are any, you will need to verify that your child is a minor. You may need to place fraud alerts on the accounts, as well. You should notify the Federal Trade Commission, and also file a police report.

Child identity theft is scary, and it seems like something that parents should never have to worry about. Unfortunately, it is a growing problem, so your best bet is to proactively protect your children’s identities.

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