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With the increased internet use and the ever-growing popularity of social media platforms, child identity theft has become a genuine concern in this day and age.
So, if you are one of those parents wondering “How do I check for identity theft for my child?”, we cover several warning signs you need to be on the lookout for.
Keep on reading to find out how to protect your children today!
What Is Child Identity Theft?
According to a recent Javelin study, children are 51 times more likely to have their identity stolen than adults. Also, around 1.25 million kids (or 1 in every 50) are affected by such offenses yearly. Frightening numbers, right? But what exactly is child identity theft?
As the name suggests, child identity theft is the act of stealing a minor’s personal information for fraudulent purposes, such as creating a new identity, applying for credit under false pretenses, ruining someone’s reputation, or any other crimes.
Cybercriminals prefer to target children since they have a blank credit history, their information is not compromised, and identity theft is harder to detect in such cases.
How to Check for Child Identity Theft?
So how do you check whether or not your child has been the victim of identity theft? Well, several warning signs typically point to that:
- Your child has been receiving bills in their name;
- Collectors have been calling for your child;
- The IRS has notified you that the child’s SSN has been listed with them;
- Your child has been getting various credit card offers;
- The IRS has been sending out unpaid taxes letters to your child;
- Your child has been denied various benefits;
- Your child has been receiving age-inappropriate mail or emails.
That said, the best way to tell whether or not your child’s identity has been stolen is to contact the major credit bureaus—TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian—to check their credit report for open lines of credit or fraudulent information on file.
Note: You can ask for a child’s credit report only if you are the parent or legal guardian.
Common Techniques Used to Steal Your Child’s Information
How does child identity theft happen, then? In essence, thieves stick to several techniques proven to be effective in getting people’s information:
- Phishing scams—a form of social engineering in which attackers use phone calls and emails to deceive their victims into revealing sensitive data, including their personal information, login credentials, and payment details;
- Hacking—experienced hackers have the skills to infiltrate any computer system in the world, let alone the personal devices of children; also, hackers may look for and find people’s personal data in data dumps on the dark web;
- Family theft—the most common perpetrators of child identity thefts are family members, who can easily steal the minor’s information and open fake accounts.
Parents can proactively protect their children’s identity and future by understanding these standard identity theft methods. In any case, they should avoid opening social media accounts for their children and using their SSNs liberally.
How to Prevent Child Identity Theft?
Once scammers get their hands on your child’s personal information, resolving fraud takes time and energy. Therefore, you must prevent it by following a few rules of thumb:
- Be cautious about sharing personal information online;
- Keep your child’s Social Security number private at all times;
- Teach your kids to safeguard their personal information when online;
- Use parental controls to monitor and limit online activity;
- Take steps to freeze your child’s credit report;
- Limit the number of accounts and services in your child’s name;
- Wipe old devices clean before selling or disposing of them;
- Keep physical documents with your child’s personal information in a safe place;
- Secure your child’s devices with strong passwords and other security measures;
- Subscribe to premium anti-malware software with online protection features.
Parents and caregivers must also inform themselves about using safe internet practices for children, which will help them secure their children’s online information and protect their family’s financial information when shopping online.
What if Someone Is Using Your Child’s Personal Information?
If you discover someone using your child’s data, follow the steps below immediately:
- Contact the companies targeted by the fraud—get in touch with the company where your child’s information was used for whatever purpose, request an account closure, and obtain written confirmation that absolves the minor;
- Contact the three major credit bureaus—you must also contact the main credit bureaus so they can remove the fraudulent activity from your child’s report;
- Freeze your child’s credit report—check out the extent of the damage by reviewing your child’s credit report before setting up a security freeze; that way, fraudsters will be unable to open a line of credit in your child’s name;
- Report Child Identity Theft—last but not least, report the theft to the FTC since you’ll need that record to file a police report; during this final step, you should include as many details about the incident as you can remember.
After completing the above steps, you’ll typically receive an action plan from the FTC, which will help you quickly minimize the damage and restore your child’s reputation.
Wrap-Up: Securing Your Child’s Identity
Child identity theft is a growing concern that parents and caregivers must take seriously. Thankfully, recognizing, preventing, and dealing with such fraud can be easy if you follow the right steps at the right time, as explained in the above sections.
Even if your child’s data has been misused, you’ll typically spend some time and a few hundred dollars dealing with the relevant authorities. Afterward, you can simply freeze your child’s report to secure their reputation and prevent a second theft.