Learn the Warning Signs of Child Identity Theft
It’s challenging enough to stay vigilant about protecting your own identity. But if you have children, you need to actively protect their identity, too. In fact, a Carnegie Mellon University study says children are actually 51 times more likely than adults to have their identity stolen. And when it happens, it can take years before you become aware of it.
Fortunately, there are some tell-tale warning signs that can let you know your child’s identity has been compromised. Let’s take a look at the warning signs of child identity theft.
Receiving Communication from the IRS
If you receive a letter, past-due notice or other communication addressed to your child from the IRS, there’s a good chance their identity has been stolen. Although you claim your children on your taxes, they don’t file themselves. So there’s no reason for the IRS to contact them directly. If you receive any such communication, contact the IRS immediately for additional details.
Getting Collection Calls or Past-due Notices
Another worrisome sign of child identity theft is if you start to receive past-due notices in the mail or phone calls from debt collectors. Cross-check with your own accounts first to ensure there’s not an error. If your accounts check out OK, you’ll want to look into the possibility that your child’s identity has been stolen.
Being Rejected for Government Benefits or Student Loans
If you apply for any type of government benefits for your child and receive a rejection notice, it can be a sign that someone is already using their social security number to receive benefits. The same goes for student loans. If your family meets the financial requirements for student aid, but receives a rejection notice, someone may already be taking out loans using your child’s information.
Receiving Pre-Approved Credit Offers
Sure, kids love getting mail. But if your child starts receiving offers for pre-approved credit cards, you have a problem. It’s another common sign that someone else has used your child’s social security number to fraudulently obtain credit.
If you notice any of these warning signs, or suspect your child’s identity has been stolen for any other reason, the first thing to do is contact each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) to see if your child has a credit report. If a credit report exists, request copies so you can review them. If it appears your child’s identity has been stolen, file a fraud report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Create an identity theft report.
Additionally, you’ll want to let one of the credit reporting agencies know about the fraud. (You only have to alert one agency, they will inform the other two.) You may also wish to freeze your child’s credit.