If you’ve taken steps to protect yourself from identity theft, good on you. But if you’re a parent, you’re not done yet—your kid could very well end up as a victim.
More than 1 million children in the U.S. were victims of identity theft last year, according to the 2018 Child Identity Fraud Study by Javelin Strategy & Research, two-thirds of whom were under the age of eight.
And those identities are worth more to fraudsters than their parents’, Al Pascual, Javelin’s senior vice president for research, told NBC. “Criminals can have a field day with a child’s identity information because it’s never been used before,” Pascual said. “When a bank or other company pulls a credit report, they’re not going to find anything, and so the criminal has a clean pallet to work on.”
Once stolen, a child’s Social Security number can be sold for around $2 on the dark web, and then used to create a “synthetic identity,” a newer form of fraud that’s been on the rise. Thieves use the SSN but attach a fake name, birthday, etc. to it to be able to start a new credit file and apply for loans, credit cards and more.
It’s a hard to proactively prevent that when so much information on us is so readily available. But one thing you can do is freeze your kid’s credit reports if you live in one of the 29 states that allows parents and legal guardians to do so. Chances are your under-18 son or daughter won’t be applying for a credit card or home loan anytime soon. Freezing their credit allows you some security. Remember to do this at all three of the main credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
And once a year, check in on your child’s credit report on annualcreditreport.com (if they are under 13, you cannot do this online) to make sure everything is as it should. Note that there are strict rules for that:
If you want to determine if there is a credit report on a minor, you should contact the credit reporting companies and provide the following information about the child:
A copy of the child’s birth certificate
A copy of the child’s Social Security card
And information about yourself:
A copy of your driver’s license or other government-issued identity card with your current address
A copy of a current utility bill
Make sure the driver’s license and the utility bill have the same address. You may also need to prove that you have legal custody of your child in cases where the credit reporting company has a legitimate need to obtain such proof.