In an age where personal data needs to be guarded closely, how can you protect your child against identity fraud? You may not think children would be ready victims of identity theft, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. According to CNBC, in 2017 over one million children were the victims of identity theft, the majority of them just seven years olds or younger. Here’s what you need to know about checking the security of your child’s identity to ensure peace of mind.
Why It’s Important
Your child’s credit score may not matter now, but upon turning 18, whatever score is attached to their social security number will immediately belong to them, whether obtained erroneously or not. Many parents don’t realize their child’s identity has been compromised until they’re getting ready to head off to college and applying for student loans or credit cards. At that time, if your child’s credit has been adversely affected, it can take some time to clear it up.
How Do You Know?
There may be signs. If you’ve received notifications from the IRS that your child’s social security number is being used on another tax return, owes any kind of income tax or is receiving bills or collection calls for products you’ve never purchased, you’ll want to investigate.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the first step is to see if your child has a credit report. To do so, contact the major credit report agencies: Equifax, Experian or Trans Union. All three have an option for checking the credit of a minor child either online or via mail. If your minor child has a credit report, it may be an indication of nefarious activity.
How Do You Clear It Up?
If your child’s identity has been compromised and accounts opened in their name, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends contacting all of the companies where accounts have been opened and reporting the fraud. Cancel the account and ask for a letter releasing your child from any financial responsibility. Next, contact credit bureaus and have fraudulent accounts removed from your child’s report. Finally, contact the FTC and report the fraud.
If your child’s identity has been compromised, you may also consider freezing their credit. To do this, contact credit bureaus and complete forms that freeze your child’s credit until they’re old enough to use it legally. This freeze limits access to your child’s credit and makes it harder for criminals to open new accounts. Some financial experts recommend a credit freeze as a preemptive action to protect your child against fraud whether their identity has been compromised or not.
Protecting your child’s identity now could save you, and them, a larger problem in the future. Following a few simple steps will ensure your child’s credit will be ready for them to use when they need it.