• David and Amanda Horowitz

Targeting the Young-Protecting Your Child from Identity Theft


Adults are not the only targets of identity theft; children can be victims of identity thieves too. This is because the crime may go undetected for years until victims try to use their own information to build credit and discover someone else has used it fraudulently. The perpetrator using a child's Social Security number, date of birth, name, address or all of the above for personal gain could be a stranger or, even worse, a relative. The information may be fraudulently used to open financial accounts; apply for utility, cable or internet services; rent housing; get a job; receive welfare or unemployment - the list of possibilities goes on. Although laws safeguard personal information, your child could still be at risk.

Be aware of signs that point to information being misused, such as calls from collection agencies, bills for products that weren't purchased, financial offers usually sent to adults and rejected federal or state tax forms. A young adult may be denied credit or loans, receive credit card bills for a card that was never requested or, in extreme cases, be arrested for a crime he or she didn't commit.

Taking Steps

Here are some steps you can take to prevent child identity theft.

* Talk about identity theft with your family. Teach your children not to post personal information on social media. Teach a young child not to give out personal information to anyone without your permission. Teach young adults about phone and internet scams.

* Never share your child's Social Security information with an unknown source.

* Keep documents and vital records in a safe place where you know with certainty that the information will not be compromised. Don't keep them anywhere they can be lost or stolen.

*Cross-cut shred all documents before throwing them away. You should do this for all personal information, as a general rule.

* Find out who has access to your child's personal information at school. Verify how records are kept and what the school does to protect information. You also need to understand the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects the privacy of students education records. Under FERPA, parents have the right to inspect and review their child's education records and to approve of disclosure of personal information. Go to ed.gov and search "FERPA" for more information.

*When filling out paperwork, ask if a Social Security number is absolutely necessary. If it's possible to use a different identifier or the last four digits of your child's Social Security number only, do so.

If Identity Theft Occurs

If you are sure your minor child has been the victim of financial identity theft, in general, the first step is to file a police report and provide any evidence you have to the authorities. Using a copy of this report, you then submit a written request for a credit report from the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. This request should be in writing and in compliance with the requirements of each agency.

You can find more information on fraud reporting and requirements on the agency websites listed below. Keep copies of all written correspondence with the agencies, and write down notes that will help you track the process. When sending correspondence, send it certified mail so you have a record of it being sent and received.

Contact any credit issuer or collection agency listed on the minor's credit report in writing and explain that this is a case of identity theft. Ask each bureau to remove all accounts, inquiries and collection notices from any file associated with your child's name and Social Security number. You should also file a report with the Federal Trade Commission, the nation's consumer protection agency, at ftccomplaintassistant.gov.

Additional Resources

Here's a list of contact information to aid you in the fraud resolution process.

* TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance Department, transunion.com

* Equifax Consumer Fraud Division, equifax.com

* Experian National Consumer Assistance Center, experian.com

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