Help Protect Your Kids Against Identity Theft
It seems like no one is safe from identity theft, and that includes kids.
Which leaves the question: How do you guard a child’s personal information and what should you do if it is misused?
The best way to safeguard sensitive information about your child is to protect it as much as possible, starting with their Social Security number. Identity thieves can use that information in attempts to take out loans, open bank or credit accounts, or apply for government benefits or utility services.
Don’t share a Social Security number unless it’s absolutely required and you trust the source. Also, don’t have the number where it can be stolen or copied.
Be sure to talk with your kids about the importance of not sharing personal information, whether it’s via social media or if asked for by an adult they don’t know. The more information about someone an identity thief can acquire, the easier it is for the thief to misuse it.
Signs that a child’s information has been stolen include:
- Unsolicited credit card offers in the child’s name.
- Receiving bills or late notices for services or goods he or she didn’t receive.
- A notice from the IRS about taxes due.
- A notice the child’s Social Security number was already used on a tax return.
Other warning signs include suspicious activity involving a child’s email, phone number, or a bank account in their name.
If you suspect something is wrong, here are some tips:
- Contact the company where fraud may have occurred, explain the situation and have the business or agency confirm in writing that the child isn’t liable.
- Check the child’s credit report at annualcreditreport.com/ and if there is a problem contact each of the three credit-reporting bureaus and follow their instructions. Generally, there should not be a report for a young child.
- Contact local law enforcement and file a report.
- File a report with the Federal Trade Commission at identitytheft.gov/ or by calling 877-438-4338.
When you feel it’s appropriate as a parent, talk to your kids about identity theft and the importance of protecting personal information so it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.