Criminals are very clever and continually devising new ways to steal from you. One very disturbing method is child identity theft. Identity thieves use it to open up bank accounts and apply for lines of credit. By the time your child reaches adulthood, and they apply for student loans, they find out their credit is ruined, and they can’t get financing, all because of identity theft.
Thieves can use your child’s social security number to apply for driver’s licenses, rent apartments, sign up for public utilities, open bank or credit card accounts, and even apply for government benefits. The list is endless once they have successfully stolen his or her identity.
How Can Child Identity Theft Occur?
When you enroll your child in school, you need to fill out mountains of paperwork, and included in the mix is your child’s social security number, along with tons of other personal information. Sometimes, when you take your newborn to the physician, they request his or her social security number. Other government offices may also ask you for this identity information. Whenever your child’s data is stored, it can be stolen or breached, as evidenced by the OPM data breach where millions of people’s private information (from background checks) was stolen and sold on the dark web.
How to Check for Child Identity Theft
Some things to look for that might indicate your child’s information was stolen and being used by someone else is:
- You are turned down for financing or government benefits using your child’s social security number because they are being sent elsewhere.
- The IRS informs you that your child did not pay income taxes, but their social security number was used on another tax return.
- You receive collection calls for unpaid bills you never authorized.
How to Protect Your Child From Identity Theft
Periodically get a copy of your child’s credit report. Even better, sign up for credit monitoring with a reputable company like IDStrong.com. freeze child's credit account until they enter adulthood so no one can open up lines of credit in their name.
- Protect their social security number while they are children. Don’t carry their social security card with you; keep it safe at home.
- Do not share their social security number with anyone if you don’t have to.
- Ask schools and medical facilities to provide you with information about how your child’s data will be used, stored, and discarded after use.
- Store your child’s important papers (birth certificate, social security card, etc.) in a locked safe or safe deposit box.
- Shred all documents that contain personal information if you no longer need them.
- If you hear about a data breach where your child’s information might have been at risk, take quick action.
- The Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allows you to opt-out of sharing personal information with schools and other agencies until your child is an adult.
- Review all the paperwork that comes home from school and whenever possible, opt-out of sharing personal details.
- Ask your child’s school about the directory information policy. Many schools issue a directory, which could include your child’s name, address, date of birth, telephone number, email address, and photo. You have the right to refuse the use of their information in this directory.
What To Do If a Child Identity is Stolen
If your child’s information is stolen and used for identity theft, you may have a mess on your hands. However, you can address child identity theft by following the steps below:
Contact each merchant, credit card company, bank, etc. and explain the situation. Use a copy of your child’s birth certificate to prove they are minor and could not have opened the accounts. Ask each merchant to close all accounts. Request that they confirm your child is not liable in writing.
Contact each of the three major credit bureaus to report the identity theft and freeze child's credit on their account until they reach the age of 18. Request that all previous activity be removed and designated as fraud, so your child’s future credit is not affected.
If your child’s school was involved in a data breach, you can report the incident here: U.S. Department of Education. Contact the Family Policy Compliance Office.
Report the identity theft to the FTC online at IdentityTheft.gov or call 877-ID-THEFT.