Protecting your child from identity theft

Before leaving the maternity ward, all three of my kids had social security numbers.Their cards now sit in a folder with their birth certificates. We take them out once year when we do our taxes and after that we rarely think about their social security numbers.

For a thief, these idle numbers are a gold mine. According to the FTC, “most parents and guardians don’t expect their youngster to have a credit file, and as a result, rarely request a child’s credit report, let alone review it for accuracy. A thief, who steals a child’s information may use it for many years before the crime is discovered.”

Fifteen years ago, I had my identity stolen. It took a lot of time and effort to clear my credit report. Now, I check regularly and investigate all suspicious activity. During these checks, I often wonder if I should also check my kids’ credit reports.

I was surprised to discover parents should not routinely check their children’s credit reports. Both the FTC and Identity Theft Resource Center recommend that parents only order a report on a child if they suspect a problem.The reason is children should not have a credit report. However by requesting credit checks every year, parents may unwittingly end up generating a report. When a credit card company see a report exists, they are more likely to believe the thief is a real consumer and issue credit.

Both of these organizations recommend that all parents order a credit report once a child turns 16. At this age, kids are close to applying for college loans or financing a car. Checking at 16 allows enough time to review a report and correct any errors before a child applies for credit.

Besides ordering a credit report at 16, the FTC also recommends that parents:

  • Keep all documents with a child’s personal information safely locked up.
  • Use a secure connection beginning with “https” before sharing personal information online
  • Update all antivirus and firewall protection.
  • Do not send personal information through an unsecured wi-fi connection at a public place such as a coffee shop or library.
  • Delete electronic computer files that you no longer need, and empty your online trash or recycle bin.
  • Remove personal or financial information that might be stored on your computer, cell phone, or other device before you dispose of it.

If a parent discovers their child is a victim of identity theft, parents should immediately alert each credit reporting company (Transunion, Experian and Equifax), place a fraud alert on their child’s file and contact the FTC and local law enforcement.

For more tips and information on identity theft, check out the FTC’s “SAFEGUARDING YOUR CHILD’S FUTURE” and the Identify Theft Resource Center’s Fact Sheet on  Identity Theft and Children.


One thought on “Protecting your child from identity theft

  1. Very good advice. People should be very aware of the fact that these fraudsters are everywhere, and anyone can become a victim. Make sure to get credit reports for all the family members, just to make sure that all tha data is correct.

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