Think only adults can be the victims of identity theft? Think again! More than a million children have their identities stolen every year. This can have a long-term impact on their lives, from difficulty establishing their own credit to trouble getting student loans or buying homes in the future.
A major red flag? Opening the mail to find pre-approved credit card offers in your child’s name. Scammers steal your child’s Social Security Number and create fake identities or simply exploit lax safety protocols to lie, cheat, and steal in your child’s name.
Every US citizen is legally entitled to a free credit report every year–regardless of age. You should make a habit of checking the reports of any minors under your care. If you see something, immediately report the suspicious activity. It’s better to catch this kind of fraud early.
Just go to www.annualcreditreport.com and enter the Social Security Number and name of the person whose report you want to check. Look for any activity that seems unfamiliar. Naturally, your toddler isn’t opening an AMEX account, but there may be other signs of fraud as well.
According to a report by Javelin Strategy & Research in 2018, 60% of underage identity theft victims know the scammer. The most likely person to commit the fraud is a family friend. However, family members may also be to blame.
Although rare, identity theft may also be performed by a school employee. The Better Business Bureau warns that you should be cautious in handing out your child’s SSN to organizations or individuals. That includes schools, doctors, sports teams, and any other group that might require enrollment. Ask questions about how they plan to keep your child’s information safe.
If you see an offer for a “free child safety kit,” proceed with caution. These ID kits are supposed to be a lifesaver in an emergency, should you need to provide identifying information to law enforcement.
The legitimate kits contain recent photos, height and weight stats, birthdate, fingerprints, and perhaps a lock of hair for DNA. However, they don’t contain identifying info such as their address and Social Security Number.
Any free kit service that insists they need the child’s SSN is a huge red flag. In general, you should not follow up on ads, social media postings, or unsolicited messages about this type of product.