Learn the benefits of freezing your child's credit to prevent identity theft.

Identity theft is nothing new in this age of technology. Most adults are aware of the dangers of a lost or stolen credit card, data breaches for online retailers, or the importance of limiting shares of your social security card, but identity theft has a new target: kids.

This may seem like a rare occurrence and not something parents should be overly worried about, but according to a report from Carnegie Melon, more than one in ten children are victims of identity theft before age 18.

Why are Kids Being Targeted?

Experts are referring to this spike in fraud as “synthetic” identity theft where criminals are targeting kids because their credit is essentially a clean slate. They use a child’s social security number paired with a different birth date, name and address to create a new identity.

Parents use their child’s social security number for a range of applications (including school forms, sporting events, registrations, etc.) making it easy for criminals to access social security numbers. Kids are also susceptible to identity theft because it's hard to track.

Oftentimes parents have no idea their kids have been targeted until it’s time for college or to apply for a loan – only to realize they then don’t qualify. This makes it easy for criminals to not only gain access to a child’s information, but also use it for years on end.

Signs Your Child has Been Targeted

Unlike adults who see a change in their bank account or credit card statement, knowing if your child has been the victim of identity theft can be more difficult. Here are a few warnings signs to look out for:

  • Receiving pre-approved credit cards or financial offers in his/her own name

  • Receiving a notice from the IRS about not paying taxes or using a duplicate social security number

  • Receiving collection notices or unknown bills

  • Being denied government benefits because your child's social security number is being used for a different account

How Can Parents Fight Back?

Parents can check their child’s credit report to see if there is any suspicious activity. Unfortunately, this isn’t as easy as it seems. You can’t simply go online and search for your child's credit report, but you can request it to the bureaus in writing.

  • Request your child’s credit report from the 3 nationwide credit reporting agencies:  TransUnion: Child Identity Theft Inquiry  Equifax: Fraud Online AlertExperian: Online Fraud Form

  • Be prepared to provide necessary documentation including, but not limited to: copy of child’s birth certificate and/or social security card, parent’s driver’s license, and proof of residence.

  • Review credit report.

  • Request freeze on credit. (Note: review credit freeze once the child reaches 16 years of age.)

  • If your child has been the victim of identity theft, follow these guidelines as set-up by the Federal  Trade Commission: Identity Theft of Minor

Pros of Freezing Credit

While freezing your child's credit can create some extra work down the road, it can be a lifesaver. The early the better when it comes freezing a child’s credit report. This prevents any potential lender from accessing your child's report without your permission. 

New credit cannot be issued without this permission, therefore preventing identity theft in your child’s name.

Cons of Freezing Credit

There are some potential negatives to freezing your kid’s credit report, but they are minor in comparison to a risk of identity theft. When you decide to apply for a loan or government benefits with this name, there may be a delay in the approval process as you will have to turn the freeze off. A few other transactions that may be impacted are: rental housing, turning on utilities, licensing, etc.

Note to Parents

While a credit freeze is a great way to protect your kid’s credit, it’s important to remember it also comes with a number of restrictions that may take some time to reverse. But for most parents, the extra work is well worth the security.

About Carli Leavitt

Carli Leavitt is a public relations specialist and avid blogger who is passionate about the safety of children in the digital age. Follow her on Twitter @CarliLeavitt

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