It’s that time of year again — back to school. Sending the kids back to school is an exciting time for both you and your children. However, no one is more excited than identity thieves. The enrollment process allows many opportunities for thieves to steal your child’s personal information and use it for financial gain. This is because many of the forms request personal information such as date of birth and Social Security number.
“A child’s identity is stolen when someone uses their personally identifiable information to open accounts or make purchases under that identity. Long-term lines of credit are especially problematic since most parents don’t think to check their children’s credit reports until they’re applying for financial aid. This oversight — which stems from not thinking their children’s identities are in danger, and not any kind of negligence — is what makes child identity theft especially alluring to a thief,” notes the Identity Theft Resource Center.
Here are a few tips for lowering your child’s chances of being taken advantage of by an identity thief.
1. Protect your child’s Social Security number
This is one piece of information you don’t want thieves to get their hands on. Thieves can use these precious nine digits to open a bank account, receive government benefits, or rent an apartment. Make sure to guard this information so that someone else isn’t living large at your child’s expense. One of easiest ways you can keep your child’s number safe is by not carrying around his or her Social Security card. It’s just too easy for the card to get lost or stolen. And if this does happen, the chances of getting a new number are slim. So play it safe and keep the card at home.
2. Ask how your child’s information will be used
When filling out forms for the new school year, always ask how your child’s sensitive information will be used, who has access to it, and how it will be stored. Ask if it is necessary to give out your child’s Social Security number for certain forms. You’re better off leaving that line blank and only providing the number if it is absolutely necessary. Also pay attention to the paperwork that your child brings home from school during the first few days of the school year. Some forms may ask for personal information that will be placed in a school directory. See if this is really necessary and if there is a way for you to opt out.
3. Order your child’s credit report
A child should not have a credit report; if he does, you should be concerned. This usually means someone is using your child’s sensitive information in order to open accounts and obtain services. Visit annualcreditreport.com to check and see if your child has a credit report.
What to do if your child’s identity is stolen:
File a report
You can report identity theft by filing a report with the Federal Trade Commission. This can be done online or by phone when you call 1-877-438-4338.
Contact the credit reporting agencies
Also contact all three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) to alert each of them about the theft. This way a note can be placed in your child’s credit file.
Request a fraud alert
After you make contact with the credit reporting agencies, ask for a fraud alert to be placed on your child’s credit report. Note that you will only need to ask one of the three agencies to place the fraud alert, as one of the agencies will then alert the other two. The FTC says that if the fraud is connected to taxes or medical services, it may be necessary to also file a police report.