Identity theft of minors is like adult identity theft. A child’s Social Security number can be used by identity thieves to apply for government benefits, open bank and credit card accounts, apply for a loan or utility, or rent an apartment.
What makes minor identity theft more troubling and more damaging compared to adult identity theft is that it often takes much longer for the victim to discover the crime.
If a minor becomes a victim of identity theft, parents are usually the ones who first take notice. Here are some warning signs that your child’s identity has been stolen and is being used fraudulently.
- You attempt to open a savings account or college fund for your child, and you discover that there is already an open account associated with your child’s Social Security number.
- You receive credit card offers, bills and/or bank statements in the child’s name, or collection agency calls concerning accounts in your child’s name.
- Your teenager is denied a driver’s license, employment, or a loan because another person has already done so with their Social Security number.
Getting a child’s credit report isn’t easy
Adults can check their own credit reports for fraud. You can’t do that with a minor child, since children aren’t supposed to have credit reports. If criminals have already opened accounts in their names or are using their Social Security numbers—you likely wouldn’t be able to answer the security questions for these accounts that allow access to their files.
Many school forms require personal and, sometimes, sensitive information. Find out how your child’s information is collected, used, stored, and thrown away. Your child’s personal information is protected by law. Asking schools and other organizations to safeguard your child’s information can help minimize your child’s risk of identity theft.
Repair the damage
If you believe your minor child is a victim, the best course of action is to request a credit freeze. Given the risks involved, many states have passed laws requiring the credit bureaus to freeze a child’s credit at a parent’s request. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, those states include Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.
In Maryland, visit kidsafemaryland.org. This Web site lets parents block their kids’ personal data from being used to open credit cards or new accounts.
If you find an instance of fraud using your child’s information, visit IdentityTheft.gov to report and recover from identity theft.
References: Bankrate.com, Fox5dc.com, Kid Safe Maryland, The Federal Trade Commission
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