We’ve all heard horror stories about consumers who have had their credit information stolen and the incredible hassle of undoing the mess.
But what you probably don’t know is that children can be the victims of identity theft too. In fact, identity theft that targets youngsters has been on the rise.
According to the credit bureau Experian, more than one million children, as young as 12, were the victims of identity theft in 2017. More than half of the children who become identity theft victims don’t find out what has happened until they apply for credit.
Children are 35 times more likely to become identity theft victims because they don’t possess a credit history and their Social Security number isn’t active, says the Division of Consumer Protection of the New York Department of State.
“A child’s Social Security number is like gold to identity thieves and represents a clean slate for criminals to do damage over possibly a long period of time,” said Michael Bruemmer, vice president of consumer protection at Experian.
The Federal Trade Commission explains how a crook can use a child’s identity. A thief can use a child’s Social Security number to apply for government benefits, open bank and credit card accounts, apply for a loan, register for utilities and rent a place to live.
According to the FTC, the start of the school year can be a particularly opportunistic time for identity thieves.
Many school forms require personal and, sometimes, sensitive information. To protect your child, find out how his or her information is collected, used, stored and thrown away.
The FTC says that there are several signs that can tip you off to the fact that someone is misusing a child’s personal information and committing fraud. For example, you or your child might:
If you think your child might be an identity fraud victim, contact the three nationwide credit bureaus to see if the child has a credit report.
If there was fraud, contact every business where your child’s information was misused. Ask each business to close the fraudulent account and flag it to show it resulted from identity theft. In addition, ask each company to put a fraud alert on your child’s credit report.