Over the past several years, identity theft has become a normal part of our lives. We are reminded of these criminal acts on a regular basis. Customers of big box retailers, banks and even governmental organizations have been victimized by identity theft. While we all may be aware of some sort of identity theft among our friends and neighbors, we may not be aware that identity theft also victimizes children.
Identity thieves target children for the simple reason that their social security numbers and credit reports are generally “clean slates” that can be used for criminal purposes. Identity thieves may also use a child’s social security number with a different name, date of birth and address creating a “synthetic identity.” What makes this type of identity theft so hard to deal with is that it may occur for several years before it is ever noticed. With this in mind, we should ask how we can protect our children and their credit from identity thieves.
First, check with the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to see if your child has a credit report. If there is no credit report, the credit bureau will provide you a notice advising you there is no report.
Second, if you find there is a credit report, examine it closely. If you do not recognize the listings on the credit report, your child may have been the victim of identity theft. In this case, you should contact your local police and make a report advising them of your suspicions. Next, you should contact each of the three major credit bureaus and place a freeze on your child’s credit report. A freeze will restrict potential creditors from issuing credit in your child’s name.
Third, be aware that some states require that if requested, a credit report be created if none exists so that a freeze can be put on it. Be aware that it may be less complicated to protect your child’s credit if a credit report does not exist. If a credit report exists, there may be a greater risk that identity theft could occur. In my opinion, I would not take the risk with my child’s credit if a credit report does not exist. I would however check regularly with the three main credit bureaus to see if a credit report has been created in my child’s name or using my child’s social security number.