It is estimated that up to 400,000 children become victims of identity theft, and only find out much later. Kids are “a delicious target for identity thieves,” says Adam Levin, the author Swiped.
Fraudsters target children under the age of 18 precisely because parents rarely check their kids’ credit scores, says Levin, a nationally recognized expert on identity theft. For scammers, your child’s name, address and Social Security number “can be a ticket to truckloads of credit and significant cash.”
To protect your family, parents must explain to their kids why it is so dangerous to share too much personal information online, Levin says.
Be on the lookout as well for unexplained collection letters, IRS notices, or explanations of medical bills. Most people would be inclined to ignore these points of contact, he says, but they should be seen as red flags.
To stay ahead of the criminals, Levin suggests that as you review your own credit reports each year, you should check out your kids’ reports as well. If you believe that something fishy is going on, file a complaint with the FTC at identitytheft.gov and contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert connected to your child’s Social Security number credit records:
- Equifax, www.Equifax.com, 1-800-766-0008
- Experian, www.Experian.com, 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion, www.TransUnion.com, 1-800-680-7289
In fact, because your child does not actually need credit any time soon, you may want to err on the more protective side, Levin says; you can actually suppress your children’s credit profiles until they reach age 18. Doing so, Levin says, “may be one of the greatest gifts you will ever give them.”