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With identity theft becoming a more popular crime in this country, adults are taking extra measures to protect themselves, which is great, but what about protecting the children? It seems strange that identity thieves would want your child’s identity, but in fact, child identity theft has been on the rise over the past couple of years and continues to grow. So why has it become so popular?
Ease: Children’s social security numbers are more available then we would like to believe. You give their Social Security number to their school, their doctor’s office, and other activities they are involved in, without knowing for sure who gets to see those Social Security numbers. And since your child probably doesn’t have a credit report, an identity thief can open up a credit card account with their Social Security number without knowing their name, since there is no name attached to the credit report.
Protection: Identity thieves also target children because a minor’s credit report is usually never monitored. Adults need to check their credit scores and reports when they apply for a loan, an apartment or other financial transactions. Children never need to check on their credit. So if an identity thief steals a child’s information and opens credit cards in their name, they are less likely to be discovered until the child is grown and applies for their first credit card or loan.
The first thing to do is check their credit report, or lack thereof. They shouldn’t have a credit report tied to their Social Security number or name. If they do, then they have probably been a victim of identity theft and you should report it right away to the police and the credit bureaus. If they haven’t been a victim yet, here are some ways you can protect their credit:
Freeze their credit reports: This is the most effective way but not always the easiest. If your child doesn’t already have a credit report — which they shouldn’t since they wouldn’t have opened any credit card or loan accounts — many states require you to open a credit report for them in order to freeze their account. Since identity theft has become so popular, many states are bypassing that requirement and letting parents freeze their child’s credit without opening a credit report for them.
Monitor their credit reports: If you can’t freeze their credit report, you should be checking it at least once a year. Everyone, including minors, has access to one free credit report from each credit bureau each year. Check every year to make sure that your child does not have a credit report on file with any of the credit bureaus at annualcreditreport.com.
Sign them up for identity theft protection: If you want to monitor your child’s credit report (or lack thereof) more often, you can sign up for an identity theft protection service. Most services offer special identity theft protection for children, which is often cheaper than their standard identity theft protection. These services will also monitor your child’s social security number, as well as other information, and monitor the black markets to make sure thieves aren’t opening credit card accounts with your child’s information.