August 22, 2023
Most people do not think of children when they hear about identity theft. Unfortunately, children suffering from identity theft are more common than most expect. Some believe thieves specifically target children because it can take years for anyone to discover the theft.
Child identity theft occurs when someone steals the personal information of a child. Thieves often target information such as names, addresses, dates of birth, or Social Security Numbers. With this information, the thief can commit fraud, obtain services, or acquire benefits under the child’s name. Examples of fraud include:
- Opening credit cards or bank accounts.
- Securing utility services.
- Applying for government benefits.
- Taking out a loan.
Warning Signs Someone Stole Your Child’s Identity
Parents should watch for signs that someone has stolen their child’s identity. They should act quickly upon seeing the signs and realizing it has happened to their children. The Federal Trade Commission has listed signs of fraud under the child’s name. They suggest parents watch for the following:
- Denied government benefits, such as health care coverage or nutrition assistance; reasons for denial include someone already using the child’s Social Security Number to get these benefits.
- An alleged collector calls concerning an overdue bill under the child’s name; however, neither parent opened this account for the child.
- The IRS sends a letter declaring the child has not paid income taxes; this happens when someone has used the child’s Social Security Number on tax forms for a new job.
- Denied student loans because the child has bad credit; this happens if someone has used the child’s Social Security Number to open a credit card, cell phone account, or utility service and has not paid the bills on time, if at all.
Steps to Take if Your Child is a Victim of Identity Theft
Once again, parents must act quickly after realizing their child has become a victim of identity theft. Here are steps they can take to help their child immediately:
- Notify Involved Companies: Parents should contact the companies where thieves have opened an account and close it. They should also request the company provide written confirmation that the child holds no responsibility for the fraudulent account.
- Contact All Three of the Major Credit Bureaus: Inform all credit bureaus that an individual opened an account or accounts with the child’s information. Parents should request the bureaus remove the fraudulent information and monitor the child’s credit report to ensure the bureaus remove everything.
- Freeze the Child’s Credit Report: The credit bureaus can freeze the child’s credit report, making it difficult for thieves to open accounts in the child’s name. However, parents must remove the freeze when expecting credit checks so the freeze does not get in the way. Children 16 or older can remove the freeze themselves.
- Report the identity theft: Parents should report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission at IdentityTheft.gov.
Learning someone has stolen your child’s identity is stressful. As such, parents should act quickly to minimize the damages, as identity theft can negatively impact their child’s future. Parents should also consider running background checks on their children. A self-background check can inform parents of fraudulent activities and ensure no one has committed crimes in the child’s name.
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