Identity thieves are targeting children 18 and younger, swiping their Social Security numbers and applying for credit accounts in their names and piling up charges.
An identity thief can wreck a child’s credit record long before the child is old enough to drive, apply for a job or fill out a college application, which is why identity thieves target children — they might be able to use a child’s identity for years unnoticed.
A stranger who accesses a child’s Social Security Number, a dishonest family member or a friend of the family with access to a child’s personal records may commit this crime.
Foster care children are particularly vulnerable to child identity theft because of the number of people who have access to their Social Security Numbers.
To protect your child, get in the habit of monitoring his or her credit report. Reach out to each of the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion and request copies of your child’s credit records.
You will need to provide each credit reporting agency with your child’s name, address, date of birth, plus copies of your child’s birth certificate and Social Security card. You will also need to provide a copy of your driver’s license or other government-issued identification card and a utility bill showing you live at your current address.
To further guard your child’s identity, you may wish to sign up for a credit monitoring service.
The major credit bureaus offer their own credit monitoring services, along with many of the major financial institutions and credit card issuers.
Shop around and compare and contrast prices and credit monitoring services carefully.
If you’re worried about your own identity becoming compromised, you have a few more options than your child. You should monitor your financial accounts regularly, daily if possible. The earlier you can spot unauthorized charges, the faster you can alert your financial institution and fix the problem.
Monitoring your credit regularly is also important. You should pull the free copies of your credit reports you can get once a year from each of the major credit reporting agencies.
A major drop in your credit score can also signal identity theft. You can monitor your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.