How to Protect Kids from Identity Theft
I can’t understand how someone could have the audacity to swipe an innocent child’s personal information and open fraudulent credit accounts in their name, but then again, I shouldn’t be surprised. I know of many situations where parents have opened accounts in their children’s name; they didn’t pay the bill, and their child spends the first few years of their adult life undoing their parent’s mistake.
Children and Teens are Easy Targets
Identity theft among children is more common than most people realize. In the past year I’ve stumbled upon many cases. There was the infant who owed a $600,000 mortgage loan; and a 14-year-old with more than $10,000 in credit card debt. Children are easy targets for brazen thieves. According to the Federal Trade Commission, approximately 400,000 children under the age of 18 have their identities stolen each year. Unlike adults, children have a clean slate; it’s much easier for thieves to open accounts, and in some cases, thieves don’t have to work hard to acquire a child’s personal information. Some children and teens willingly offer this information. Therefore, it’s important for parents to closely monitor their children’s activity and take steps to protect their identity.
Keeping Personal Information Secret
Thieves don’t need a lot of information to open a fraudulent account. In most cases, the only information they need is a birth date, full name, and Social Security number. Children should understand the importance of keeping this information private. It shouldn’t be revealed to anyone, including friends, relatives, teacher or other trusted adults.
Stop Pre-approved Credit Card Offers
In an effort to help their child build a solid credit history early, some parents make their children authorized users on their credit cards. This is a smart maneuver – if the parent maintains a good credit history. However, including a child’s name on a credit account can invite unwanted offers for lines of credit.
Everyone from mortgage companies to credit card companies will pre-approve the child for a credit account. These pre-approved offers can end up in the wrong hands, and if you’re not careful, your child can unknowingly carry several thousands of dollars of debt. Shred all credit offers, and call 1-800-5optout to have the child’s name removed from marketing lists.
Check Their Credit Report
Most parents don’t think to check their child’s credit report. But identity theft among children is a real problem, and it doesn’t take long for thieves to completely destroy a child’s rating. Order a copy of their credit report once a year, look for suspicious activity, and report fraudulent activity immediately. Also, consider paying a service to monitor the child’s credit. Companies such as Identity Guard and Life Lock send e-mail notifications when new accounts are opened, or when changes are made to existing accounts. Safeguarding your child’s identity is worth the monthly fee.