Not only are adults affected, but also children, including newborns, are susceptible to the crime of identity theft. The result of this crime can take an emotional and psychological toll on them just as it does for adults. Most of the time, the person committing this crime is a family member or somebody known to the family. Some criminals specifically focus on children because this crime can go undetected for a very long time so allowing the culprit enough time to ruin the child's credit. The theft may go unnoticed until your child opens up his first checking account or is denied an automobile loan. In some instances, the police can come knocking on your door seeking to arrest your child for a crime he never committed. Protecting the children from this type of crime is the sole responsibility of the parents or legal guardians.
It is a growing trend that immigrant parents who bear children in the US name their children after themselves so that they can use their child's social security number against them. This occurs especially among Mexican families.
The following is steps that you should take to guard your child's personal information:
- Teach your child to keep their personal information personal. Tell them not to share social security numbers, passwords, and bank account information just like they should not share toothbrushes.
- Take caution when giving out your child's social security number or providing a copy of their birth certificate. The only time this should be necessary is when you are registering your child for school. Always ask why this is necessary. Do not hesitate to ask the person making the request how the information will be used or stored and who will have access to the information.
- Always leave social security cards at home.
- Be on the lookout for collection notices or credit card offers made out to your child's name. Always check up on your child's account statements for any suspicious activity. Do not just throw away the savings account statement simply because you know that your 3-year-old has not made any withdrawals.
- Always maintain the integrity of passwords. Older children who have passwords should change them repeatedly. Tell them to avoid using their mother's maiden name and store all electronic items such as Ipods, cell phones, or laptops securely. If someone requests using your child's social security number as an identification number, ask them if there is another choice.
- Run annual checks on your child's credit report. Federal law gives consumers one free access to their credit report every twelve months from each of the three major credit reporting agencies, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Be aware that perpetrators are smart enough to change the personal information to prevent suspicious activity from showing up on the child's credit file.
- Credit reporting agencies now have employees who are highly trained to detect juvenile identity theft. If you are concerned about the integrity of your child's personal information, consider working with one of the credit agencies directly. Credit bureaus will obscure the child's credit file to signal that it belongs to a juvenile and prevent further suspicious activity.
There are lots of consumer fraud schemes out there. It is up to you, the consumer, to educate yourself to recognize what is and is not legitimate. Hopefully our advice will help your child minimize becoming a victim to the crime of identity theft.