Kids Are Popular Targets for Identity Theftby Tim Manni
Identity theft among minors is becoming a growing problem. While it’s nearly impossible to determine the exact amount of cases that occur each year, in 2005 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that about 400,000 minors had their identities misused. The experts at Experian, one of the country’s three main credit bureaus, estimated that number rose above 500,000 in 2008.
How does it happen? Adults who have squandered their credit steal a child’s Social Security Number and create a false identity with a squeaky-clean record. Even though the criminals usually proceed to pile on new charges and create a new host of debt collectors on their tail, writer Mandy Locke writes:
“[the criminal] can often dodge creditors down the road. Because children don’t routinely manage their own finances and aren’t supposed to have credit histories, this scheme can go unnoticed for years. Often, children discover it when they apply for college loans or their first apartment. The problem can haunt them well into adulthood.
Protecting your child’s identity is simpler than you think. Just as you take careful note of where you keep your Social Security card and who you give your number out to, that same care should be taken with your child’s ID. Monitor their credit report with the country’s three main bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
Also, be sure to monitor your child’s mail — there are certain types of mail that children should never get:
- Offers of credit from lenders of any kind including credit card companies, mortgage lenders or student loans.
- Bills, past due or collections notices for any type of financial or other type of account
- Social Security Administration account statements
If you do receive these types of communications, or any other suspicious looking mail, in your child’s name follow up with the company or agency that sent them to determine the reason they were sent in the first place.
Limit the amount of personal information your kids share on the internet. We don’t have to lecture you on the dangers of the world-wide web, so limiting the information your children post about themselves, especially on social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace, is key.
How to report a minor’s stolen identity. SmartMoney.com says that parents should promptly contact the credit bureaus after learning their child’s ID has been misused. Click here to read up on the procedures you must follow when reporting a minor’s identity theft to each credit bureau.