According to the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange; children under the age of 18 are 51 times more likely to become victims of identity theft than their parents. One source found that child identity theft was 35 times the rate for adults in the same population and it's growing.
Children make easy and appealing victims for identity thieves because of the ease of our credit application process. Because the age of the applicant is not verified; once a thief has a child's social security number; the rest is pretty easy. They can simply use the child's personal information with a little bit of their own, and voila! – new identity created. From here they can apply for lines of credit, a new driver's license, jobs, government benefits, medical care, or utilities. Further, kids have no credit history; thus a person can steal a child's SSN and it won't be detected for a decade or more. This is mainly because parents don't check their children's credit reports until they are adults themselves; typically when they're applying for college assistance.
What are some warning signs to look out for to keep your child safe?
Preapproved credit card offers in your child’s name – Most pre-approved card offers receive their information from other creditors, credit reporting agencies or cookies from searches on the Internet. Thus, this is an indication that your child's personal information is somewhere it should not be; sure mistakes are made, but a quick call to the person making the offer wouldn't hurt just to make sure.
Calls from collection agencies – This is beyond a warning; this is a red flag. There is no reason a collection agency should be calling your under-aged child regarding any account; they shouldn't have any bills in their name at this point.
Denied a financial account – If a banking/financial institution refuses to open an account for your child it's usually because they already have one or because of a poor credit rating. If you know they don't have an account anywhere and obviously he/she shouldn't have a credit score if they're under the age of 18; this is a huge warning sign as well.
Your child has a credit report – In general, only public records or applications for credit would cause a company/institution to furnish any information to the credit bureaus. Thus, make it a habit to check if your child has a credit report; between the ages of 15-18 especially.
IRS notifications in child's name – If the IRS is sending notices in the mail for your child it will more than likely be associated with income taxes. If your child's social security number is associated with any form of income and you know they're not working anywhere – someone has more than likely used their SSN to work under.
Denial of government benefits – If you or your child are turned down for government assistance because they have been paid to another account using your child's SSN; your child's identity has been compromised.
Desperate Family Members/Friends – 36% of child ID theft cases involve a relative; 35% involve a family friend; thus watch those around you, especially those with access to important information about your child. If you know someone close to you that is having financial difficulties but suddenly appears with a new credit card or loan; that's a red flag. If a family member’s license has been suspended or revoked, but they somehow got it quickly reinstated, that’s another red flag.
- Shredding all important documents prior to disposing of them
- Look for “https” prior to entering any personal information online; this indicates the information is encrypted
- Never carry your child's SSN or your own
- Ask Questions – A lot of paperwork for doctor visits, schools, and programs ask for a social security number. Ask how it's stored, protected and if it's absolutely necessary for identity purposes.
- Don't give your child their SSN. If you're around children you know that they talk and often reveal personal things that should remain private. An adult can take advantage of that information quite easily. If they're too young to use the SSN responsibly; it'sbest to leave them in the dark.
- Store all of your financial and personal information versus leaving it out in the open – a safe; safety deposit box; or consider MNH Credit Solutions's “Financial Lockbox“. It's an online storage lockbox that safely stores all of your financial assets, contacts and personal information; it's available 24/7 and forwarded to a contact of your choice in case of emergencies. We also offer “LifeLock Identity Theft Protection“ that provides a $1 Million guarantee and helps to proactively safeguard your credit, finances and your good name by alerting you of any potential threats before the damage is done.
If you would like to inquire about any of our services please do not hesitate to contact us; you can either complete the ‘Contact Form' in the right column; or give us a call! (708) 872-0811.