Over 13 million people had their identity stolen in some form in 2013, according to a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Of those, a growing number of victims are children. A report from the Carnegie Mellon University indicates 4,311 or 10.2 percent of children had someone else using their Social Security number. These numbers have likely grown since the 2011 report. Identity theft is a real concern that parents need to take action to prevent. There are several steps you can take:
Discuss Identity Theft While Children
A key starting point is to discuss identity theft with children even as young as 10 or 11. Discuss what it is, why it happens, and how to prevent it. The FTC is an excellent resource for learning tools, featuring games like Mall Security Office and Book Cafe, which aim to make learning about this dry subject a little more fun. These materials provide a hands-on method of teaching children how to prevent identity theft from occurring.
Put Identification Tools In Place Now
Regardless of your child’s age, it’s well worth it to invest in tools that monitor your child’s personal information, such as the identity theft protection services from LifeLock. This service is designed to detect any fraudulent activity that occurs and alert you of the action. You can take immediate action, such as reporting it to the police and or another reporting agency. This type of early detection can protect a child’s Social Security number and credit history from significant damage.
Check For A Credit Report
Request a credit report for their child, even if you don’t think there’s reason to suspect an issue. Credit reports generally are not available until a person obtains some type of credit. For someone under the age of 18, this should be rarely the case. If a credit report is available, this may indicate identity fraud. Obtain a copy of credit reports by visiting AnnualCreditReport.comand requesting it through this government-approved site. There is no cost. Should a report be present, you can then contact the reporting agency and police to dispute the information present.
Work Towards Prevention
Parents need to work towards preventing identity theft from occurring. To do this, the FTC provides specific guidelines including:
- Keeping all paper and electronic records with personal information on file and locked away in a safe location.
- Don’t provide a Social Security number of your child to anyone unless it is a trusted source. Additionally, inquire about what steps that source is taking to protect the Social Security number.
- When used for identification purposes, only supply the last four digits of a Social Security number.
- Know who could have access to the number such as schools, banks, doctor’s offices, health insurance companies, and other parties. This ensures that if a breach occurs, you may be able to track down where it happened.
Most importantly, if you detect any type of fraudulent activity, alert the authorities right away. Report the information by filing a report with the FTC, contact the local police department, and file a dispute with each of the credit bureaus displaying the false information.