Protecting Your Child From Identity Theft
Is someone using your child’s Social Security number or other personal information to commit fraud? Unfortunately, the number of cases of identity theft committed against children is on the rise, according to the Federal Trade Commission. And parents may be completely unaware until the child is one day denied a driver’s license or a college tuition loan because of the bad record that an identity thief has built in the child’s name.
WISE PRECAUTIONS ESSENTIAL
Identity theft occurs when a criminal uses someone else’s personal information to commit fraud, such as running up credit card bills in another person’s name or using their identity to get a driver’s license or other false credentials. Adults have been the victims of identity theft for years, but scammers have found that a child’s personal information is just as useful in committing fraud.
That’s why it’s important to take the same precautions to protect your child’s personal information that you take for your own data. For example, don’t reveal your child’s Social Security number or other personal data without good reason. When someone requests this information, ask why it is needed and what steps will be taken to protect your child’s privacy. Make sure the information is kept confidential and in a secure location.
TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
One warning sign that your child’s identity has been stolen appears when he or she begins to receive solicitations in the mail to open credit card accounts. These offers are usually only sent to people who have established credit records. If your child does not have any outstanding debt, then you should question why credit card issuers would have his or her name. It may be a sign that someone else is running up debt using your child’s identity.
GET THE FACTS
To get more information, check with the three major credit bureaus to see if your child has a credit report. The Web site of the Identity Theft Resource Center offers a fact sheet for ordering a credit report for your child. You can find it by visiting www.idtheftcenter.org.
However, the Center does advise that parents should not request these reports unless they have a reason to suspect that someone is using their child’s identity. Submitting a request will open a report for your child if he or she does not have one, and that will make it easier for a potential thief to use your child’s identity in the future.
PROTECT YOUR INFORMATION
As a general rule, you should reduce the chances that thieves can obtain personal information for anyone in your family. Keep important documents—-such as birth certificates and Social Security cards—-in a secure location. Don’t carry your child’s Social Security card in your wallet in case it is stolen.
COLLEGE STUDENTS AT RISK
Young children have been the victims of identity theft, but college students are especially vulnerable because they live in close quarters with other students and may not be especially alert to protecting their privacy. They should take care to secure their credit cards or other information and to keep their wallet and important documents in a safe place. If the college uses students’ Social Security number as their ID number, ask to change it to another number.
Your local CPA can offer advice on how to prevent your family from becoming the victims of fraud. Consult your CPA on any important financial issues.
(Updated 2015) Reviewed and edited by Jason Freeman, CPA, Meadows, Collier, Reed, Cousins, Crouch & Ungerman, L.L.P.
Copyright, American Institute of Certifed Public Accountants