Child identity theft is a common crime. It’s fairly easy for a criminal to steal a child’s identity because of how long the scam can go on before there is any reason to suspect it. Social security numbers are obtained when a child is born, but it really isn’t until the child is old enough to get a job or apply for credit that there would be an opportunity to discover that their identity has been stolen.
How Child Identity Theft Happens
One of the primary reasons for child identity theft is actually caused by their own parents. If a parent is facing financial issues that will not allow them to obtain credit in their own social security number, some will take on their child’s number to get the financing they want or need. Many times, a parent who will use their own child’s social security number and identity will also have problems with money management so the result is they end up ruining their children’s credit as well as their own.
Most of the time, a criminal will access a child’s social security number and use it to obtain credit cards or other financing. The stolen social security number isn’t usually found until the child begins applying for jobs or financing of his or her own – years later. By then, the child theft victim is facing a tremendous task of trying to straighten it out and fix their credit history. In the worst cases, children have thousands of dollars of debt on their credit reports from the criminal, all being paid late or not at all – and all before the child could get financing of their own. It can take months or even years to straighten out the mess, and in the meantime, the child, now an adult, is unable to secure his or her own credit.
Prevent Child Identity Theft
It’s easier to prevent child identity theft then it is to repair it after it happens. Try the following steps to pro-actively prevent it from happening to your children:
Monitor Your Child’s Credit: You can pay for a monthly credit monitoring service to alert you if the child’s information is being used to obtain credit; or you can order an annual credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus every year to make sure nothing is on the report. If there is anything reported, you can take action immediately to prevent further damage.
Think Twice Before Using Social Security Number: Sometimes you have no choice but to use your child’s social security number on documents, like income tax returns and medical forms or some school paperwork. These are organizations who are required by law to maintain privacy and protect the data. On any other application or paperwork you fill out, think twice before including your child’s social security number. If they can process the information without it, don’t include it. If you receive paperwork back that includes your child’s social security number – don’t just toss it in the trash. Shred and throw away if not keeping it, or file it safely away if you need to keep the document.
If Your Child’s Identity is Stolen
If you discover your child’s social security number and identity has been used by someone else, report it immediately to the credit bureaus and the police department. The sooner you address the issue, the less damage and the easier it will be to fix it.