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Child ID Theft

Child ID Theft

Despite a child's finances being largely tied to his or her parents', minors are still susceptible to identity theft and the consequences can be both troublesome and financially damaging.

Recognizing the warning signs, knowing how to prevent it and understanding steps to take if you or a family member falls victim to the crime are vital to protecting one's identity and financial well-being.

Warning Signs
While child identity theft is often unexpected, recognizing its warning signs is essential for catching it early. Receiving collection calls, bills for services you didn't use or IRS correspondence explaining that your child's Social Security number has been misused are key signs of fraud.

Prevention
Laws such as the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which is enforced by the U.S. Department of Education and protects student records, exist to combat child identity theft. There are, however, additional steps you can take in order to prevent identity theft from occurring:

  • Check credit reports. When your child turns 16, it is possible they will have a credit report. You are entitled to a free credit report once every 12 months from the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com to request a copy. Keep track of your child's credit and inspect it for any unusual changes to notice signs of identity theft as soon as possible.
  • Know school policies. If your child is enrolled in school, you will receive annual notices that explain your rights as a parent. These include reviewing your child's educational records, approving what personal information is shared and being able to correct potential errors. To combat identity theft, maintain a strong line of communication with your child's school, pay attention to what information forms request and know your rights.
  • Be careful with your information. Never give someone your Social Security number unless it's absolutely necessary and the requesting party is a reputable institution like a bank or credit union.
  • Monitor online activity. Teach your child to be cautious online. Be aware of social networking sites, blogs and forums your child uses and track what information they post online. Make sure your child knows to delete "phishing" emails and to only make purchases from secure websites. Additionally, help your child create reliable passwords and passcodes for their smartphones, tablets and laptops.
  • Find a safe location for important documents. Designate areas to contain all paper and electronic records, including personal and financial details. Securing your mailbox and emptying it frequently can help protect important data. If a document is no longer necessary, be sure to shred it prior to throwing it away.
  • Educate your child. Use online resources to help your child understand the importance of financial and personal security. The earlier kids learns how to manage money and protect their financial life, the sooner they will be equipped for dealing with serious issues like identity theft. The free Practical Money Skills Calculators app blends technology and financial education with powerful calculators that enable you to assess your financial choices.

What to do if you're a victim
If you believe your child's identity has been stolen, take these steps to quickly address the issue and report the crime.

Report the fraud to law enforcement. Alert your local police department of the crime. They will create an "identity theft report" which you can request a copy of.

Contact the credit reporting companies. Call each credit bureau and ask them to address the identity theft. They are also able to put a fraud alert on your child's credit report.

Equifax: www.equifax.com
1.888.766.0008

Experian: www.experian.com
1.888.397.3742

Trans Union: www.tuc.com
1.800.680.7289

File a fraud report. The Federal Trade Commission allows you to file a report online or through calling their identity theft hotline at 877-IDTHEFT (877-438-4338).

Sources:
Consumer Information: Child Identity Theft, the Federal Trade Commission.
Identity Theft, the Federal Trade Commission.
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the U.S. Department of Education.
ITRC Fact Sheet 120: Identity Theft and Children, the Identity Theft Resource Center.
Types of Identity Fraud: Protect Your Child's Identity, Experian.
Child Identity Theft Education Kit, Equifax.
Child Identity Theft, TransUnion.

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