In honor of National Consumer Protection Week, multiple organizations are partnering to offer people across the country a variety of safety tips. Today, we’d like to direct your attention to some tips from the Federal Trade Commission geared toward preventing child identity theft.
Identity theft can happen to anyone, and it’s usually not as funny as it appears in certain hit movies that came out in recent weeks. The danger isn’t limited to adults. Children are prime targets for identity theft, as many scammers take advantage of the fact that it will be years before a child will have to use credit, and such it often takes awhile for parents to realize that their kids’ identities have been pilfered.
You can take steps to prevent your child from falling prey to a fraud. First, keep all sensitive identification information (birth certificate, Social Security number, etc.) in a place where it can’t easily be accessed by anyone other than you. This information should not be offered to any other parties. If a company asks for a Social Security number, ask that entity if something else will suffice.
Perhaps nowhere is this more important than at an education institution. There are times when schools will be susceptible to information thievery. When the school compiles its directory of student information, you might consider asking for a copy and asking the school not to include your child should they provide the directory to various third parties. Similarly, other programs that are run through the school, such as sports or extracurricular activities, may also distribute sensitive information. If your child participates, ask the coordinators about their policies and opt out of third party information distribution if you can.
You should also be aware of some warnings that could signify your child’s identity has been stolen. For instance, if the IRS contacts you with an alert that your kid failed to pay income taxes, his or her identity has probably been stolen. The same goes for collection agencies that contact you seeking payment on outstanding bills your kid clearly never amassed.
Should any of these things happen to your child, the first thing you’ll want to do is obtain a credit report. This will enlighten you as to the details of the identity theft. You’ll have a lot of work to do at this point. You have to get in touch with credit reporting companies and explain that they need to take care of all account and collection notices. Those companies will enact a fraud alert on any improperly opened accounts. Businesses where your child’s identity was used to obtain goods and services also need to be contacted by you and told to close and flag the fraudulent account. You can then get in touch with the FTC to file a fraud report with them.
Finally, even if you don’t think fraud has occurred, get a credit report when your child turns 16, as it can uncover any potential identity theft which occurred and escape your notice.