No one wants to go through the fallout from an identity theft. It’s incredibly stressful, it can be costly, and it can take what seems like forever to get your record clean again. By gaining access to your personal information, the identity thief can send your finances, credit, and your reputation into a tailspin.
When criminals steal your personal information for their own financial gain, it’s identity theft. It can include everything from stealing someone’s social security number to open new accounts to hacking into a bank account. Because so much of our information is now stored and shared electronically, this crime is on the rise – and child identity theft is happening more frequently, too.
It’s easy to forget that your children can also be the victims of identity theft, even without credit cards or bank accounts of their own.
Today, we’ll walk you through the basics of child identity theft, signs it may have happened to your family, and some tried-and-true ways to make sure you’re keeping your family as safe as possible from child identity theft.
What Makes Child Identity Theft An Appealing Crime?
- A child’s information gets shared on a regular basis. Think of all the times you’re required to share your children’s information: their schools, your work, and much more. Additionally, kids are known for hopping on social media without realizing the risks of sharing their own personal information. These realities can make your child’s information much easier to access.
- A child has no negative credit history. Of course, most children have zero credit at all! This means it’s much easier for identity thieves to take out new loans in your child’s name and commit child identity theft.
- A child’s credit information isn’t monitored. Years may go by before you realize your family is the victim of child identity theft.
Signs Your Child’s Information Has Been Stolen
While there’s no foolproof way to prevent child identity theft, there are ways you can be alerted that his or her information may have been stolen.
Since your child has no credit history, you should be concerned if:
- You receive credit card applications in your child’s name. This could mean someone has used your child’s information to apply for credit.
- A collections agency calls to speak with your child.
- The IRS tries to contact your child. Someone could be using your child’s social security number.
- Your child is turned down for financial aid, first apartment, or a job. If your child is getting refused because of a bad credit history, it could be a case of identity fraud. Many cases of child identity theft come to light only when child applies for college or a job – likely the first time anyone runs a credit check.
Make Sure Your Child’s Not Vulnerable To Identity Theft
When it comes to child identity theft affecting your family, you’re not limited to simply crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. There there are steps you can take to protect your child’s information and credit.
- Equip your kids with online safety smarts. Talk to your kids about the risks and pitfalls of sharing too much information, making purchases from unsecure websites, online scams, etc.
- Be careful with your child’s information. For instance, don’t carry your child’s Social Security card in your wallet – store it in a safe location with other important documents.
- Keep your child’s information as private as possible. Unless it’s absolutely necessary, don’t share your child’s private information (Social Security number and date of birth) to anyone.
- Check your child’s credit reports. Because your child shouldn’t have a credit report at all, you can use an annual credit check to easily verify whether someone has tried to obtain credit using your child’s social security number.
Realizing your child’s clean credit history has been ruined is a terrible feeling. It can result in you and your family feeling blindsided. Now that you’re equipped with today’s tips and insights, you’re far more likely to discover the child identity theft right when it happens, or hopefully, avoid it altogether.
Disclaimer: Citywide Home Loans does not provide identity theft services or any other service apart from lending.