When most of us think about identity theft, we think of ads showing someone stealing another adult’s valuable information, ruining existing credit lines and using existing accounts. While this is a huge problem, it is also likely that someone will steal a child’s identity. Children’s social security numbers and names are almost always debt free and without any financial history whatsoever. People may even steal a child’s information to obtain medical care. As someone obtains more information about your child and uses it for various things, this makes it easier to apply for credit or file fake tax returns.
What can you do to protect your children?
Be careful with your child’s information. It is not necessary to give a child’s social security number to everyone who asks for one. Schools are not necessarily entitled to all of your child’s personal data. The Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) protects parents and students from how much of their data can be distributed to third parties. Pay attention to what your child receives in the mail. A true notice from the IRS should never be discarded as a mistake. However, keep in mind that scammers have become extremely sophisticated, so do not be afraid to call to verify the authenticity of mail you have received from the IRS before taking any action.
Also, unsolicited credit card offers for minor children might indicate activity such as identity theft. If you are concerned in the least, it never hurts to obtain a credit report on your child. If there is incorrect information on the report and you suspect identity theft, visit www.identitytheft.gov. This site will provide you with a free personal recovery plan that will walk you through each step of the process.
You should also remain extremely vigilant about receiving phone calls from someone claiming to require information about your child. Someone may call claiming to be from your child’s school or doctor’s office seeking information. Be sure to be alert for anything out of the ordinary and if you feel suspicious, visit the school or doctor’s office yourself to convey relevant information.
Finally, if you currently have theft protection, consider adding your child to your account. Do not forget to shred all documents which contain personal information for the safety of you and you child.