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Identity THeft

Preventing Child Identity Theft

Child identity theft occurs when a minor's identity is stolen and exploited for the impostor's gain. Children are particularly sought after targets, as their credit histories are more likely to be clean and tend to have a smaller established presence on digital platforms.

Identity theft occurs when a person uses someone else's personal information as their own, thus stealing their identity. Examples of valuable information that identity thieves steal include Social Security numbers, a person's name, driver's license numbers, bank or credit card numbers, fingerprints, date of birth, or any other information that could be used to access personal accounts. These identity thieves take that personal information and use it to benefit themselves by gaining a financial advantage, obtaining credit, receive government aid, get jobs, and more— all, at the expense of the other person. The person whose identity is stolen may suffer many negative consequences, including monetary loss or bad credit.

If a child's identity is stolen and used for nefarious purposes, it is likely that the child will not open a bank or credit card account for a few years, meaning the theft can go unnoticed for a long period of time. This will make it all the more difficult to erase the damage done by the theft. As they grow up, victims of child identity theft can face a tarnished credit history, financial loss, difficulty in obtaining credit cards, and more. Since children are especially susceptible to identity theft, as their information is quite valuable to thieves and because the thief can go under the radar, child identity theft is, unfortunately, growing significantly.

Red Flags to Look Out For

• If the child is turned down for government benefits and the cause is that the benefits are being paid to someone else using the child's account.
• If the child receives calls, bills, bank account statements, mortgage statements, loan statements, or other suspicious, unsolicited mail.
• If the child receives a notice from the IRS regarding unpaid taxes.

Identity Theft Protection - Better To Be Safe Than Sorry

It's always better to be proactive than reactive. In other words, eliminate the problem before it even starts. To do this, ensure that your child's data is protected from misuse. Here's how:

• Designate a safe location to store any and all records that contain personal information, whether paper or electronic.
• As you have learned by now, a child's Social Security number is extremely valuable and highly sought after by cybercriminals. Therefore, you should be careful when providing organizations or individuals with a Social Security number. Do not provide this number unless you know for sure that the other party is legitimate and trustworthy. Inquire why providing a Social Security number is necessary and the methods by which your information will be protected. Request to see if you can provide a different identifier or simply the last four digits of the Social Security number. However, it is still important to note that the last 4 digits are very valuable.
• Before discarding of any of a child's personal or valuable information, shred the documents to ensure that the documents are not readable for someone else.
• Be aware of events that put information at risk. For example, there's an adult who might want to use a child's identity to start over; you lose a wallet, purse, or paperwork that has your child's Social Security information; there's a break-in at your home; or a school, doctor's office, or business notifies you that your child's information was affected by a security breach.

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What To Do When You Suspect Your Child's Identity Has Been Stolen

• If you suspect you or your child is a victim of identity theft, check credit reports. To do this, visit the three nationwide credit reporting companies, Experian, Equifax, and Transunion.
• If anything causes a hint of doubt that your child's identity has been stolen, speak to the appropriate authorities to report and recover from identity theft.
• Send a letter or email asking companies to remove all accounts associated with the child's name or other information.
When you are reporting child identity theft, explain that the victim is a minor and make sure to include a copy of the Uniform Minor's Status Declaration.

• Order the child's credit reports.
• Place a fraud alert.
• Consider requesting a credit freeze.

• Contact businesses where the child's information was misused and request them to flag affected accounts to show it was affected by identity theft
• Create an Identity Theft Report.
• Record the dates you made calls or sent letters.
• Keep copies of letters in your files.