Your Facebook feed is likely inundated with cute photos of smiling kids sporting new backpacks and lunch boxes for their first day of school. With it being back to school time, the identity theft protection experts at the Equifax Finance blog are sharing some valuable information about the very real risks of child identity theft.
A new article on the Equifax Finance blog, “Does My Child Have a Credit Report?,” explains how a child’s identity is stolen and what to do about it.
Thieves get a hold of children’s Social Security Numbers and open credit accounts in their name. Parents and children may not even be aware that it has happened until years later; however, there are a few warning signs and situations that may indicate a theft has potentially occurred. If any of the following occur, your child may have fallen victim to identity theft:
- If you receive notification that your child’s school experienced a data breach of any kind.
- If you start receiving offers for credit cards in the mail in your child’s name .
- If you get collections calls or bills in your child’s name.
- If your child is denied government benefits and you’re told it’s because benefits are already being paid to an account bearing your child’s SSN.
- If you receive an IRS notice that your child’s SSN was used on someone else’s tax return.
If you experience any of the above, you should check your child’s credit report to see if their identity is being used by a thief. Reporting the fraud as quickly as possible will help mitigate damages and help you clear your child’s good name more quickly.
First, contact the three national credit reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian), explain the situation and request a thorough search and review of credit under your child’s name and social security number. You will likely have to mail in some documentation proving you are the parent or guardian. If a credit file is found and it contains fraudulent accounts, dispute them immediately. You should also place a fraud alert on your child’s file and consider a security freeze that would prevent any credit from being opened in his or her name. Visit the Equifax Finance Blog to learn how to dispute information in a credit report and place a fraud alert or security freeze. You can also report the theft to your local law enforcement agency and the Federal Trade Commission.
While identity theft is hard to completely avoid, there are steps you can take to try to prevent it. Only give out your child’s social security number when it’s absolutely necessary, and keep his or her social security card stored in a safe place at home (or in a safe deposit box). Get more tips for preventing child (and adult) identity theft at the Equifax Finance Blog. While there, you can learn more about other personal finance topics, from retirement to taxes to insurance and more.