We all know how important it is to protect our identities, but have you ever thought to protect your child’s? Fraudsters can easily steal your child’s identity without you realizing it for years. Thieves use the information they same way they would yours, to open fake accounts, credit cards and loans. Children are an easy target for thieves, they have a clean slate so creating a fake identity is easy.
Prevention is key
Keep all your paper and electronic records with your child’s information in a secure and safe location, especially their social security card – do not carry this with you (or your own for that matter)! Never share their Social Security number with anyone who does not need it. Do not be afraid to ask why they need it and how it is going to be protected. Shred any documentation with your child’s information before throwing it away. You can also freeze your child’s credit, but it is not easy.
Place a credit freeze
You can freeze your child’s credit at the three main credit bureaus. Each credit bureau requires documentation to be sent before they freeze a child’s credit. They want to verify you are who you say you are. Items you may need to do this would be: birth certificate, Social Security card, & photocopy of your government issued ID. You can find the requirements for each credit service here: Transunion, Experian, Equifax.
Warning signs to look for
Learning the warning signs are equally as important as prevention. If your child’s identity has been compromised, you may start to receive bills or credit cards addressed to your child as well as credit offers. You may also start to receive collections calls or IRS notices. If you think your child’s identity has been stolen, you can check to see if they have a credit report at one of the three major credit reporting agencies. Visiting www.annualcreditreport.com is a free way to obtain a credit report – not just for your child, but also for you! You can time it so you can get a credit report every 4 months so you are continually monitoring your credit. This service does not supply you with a credit score, but that is not what you really need to pay attention to. Rather, it is important to look for items that don’t belong on your credit report or your child’s report.
How to repair your child’s credit
If you know your child’s identity has been stolen report it to the FTC. They will create a personal recovery plan to help you regain you or your child’s identity. Make sure to alert the credit bureaus that your child has been a victim of identity theft and ask them to remove the fraudulent charges as well as place a freeze. It is also vital to contact the companies where the fraud occurred and explain the situation to them.
Pay attention to the personal information listed on forms. You should never be afraid to ask how your child, or your own personal information is going to be protected or how it is used. It is important to teach children about online safety as well especially if they have internet access, they may not realize the information they are sharing can be used to steal their identity. Always use caution when it comes to giving out sensitive information. If you suspect fraud, River Valley is always here to help the best we can.
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