Protect Your Child From Identity Theft

by Scott Grabel

Although kids don't engage in the same financial activity and transactions as adults, they can be targets of identity theft. Criminals often target children's personal and financial information with the intent of using it for crimes. With a child's Social Security number, a criminal can open a bank account, file a tax return, or even file for bankruptcy. Parents must protect children from identity theft to prevent serious damage to their credit. By looking out for common warning signs and checking a child's credit report, parents can discover a breach before it leads to serious consequences.

Warning Signs

  • Declined government benefits because the benefits are already being issued for your child's Social Security Number..
  • Receiving bills in your child's name for a service or product not purchased.
  • Calls for your child from collection agencies for unpaid bills.
  • Denial of Credit for a teenager due to a poor credit score may indicate identity theft.
  • A federal agency inquiring about a child's earnings or employment status when the child has never worked.
  • Receiving a notice of a tax lien or traffic violation in a child's name is also a red flag for identity theft.
  • Denial of admission to college can be another warning sign of identity theft.
  • The credit bureaus will issue fraud alerts to consumers if potential fraud is suspected.

Federal Consumer Resources:

Federal Trade Commission: Child Identity Theft

ConsumerFinance.gov: Helping Youth Start and Maintain Good Credit

National Consumer Protection: Identity Theft

Checking Your Child's Credit Report

  • The three credit bureaus have implemented specific processes for parents to request a minor child's credit report.
  • The Federal Trade Commission advises parents to check their children's credit reports by age 16 to ensure that problems do not exist.
  • A minor cannot request a credit report directly. However, a parent can request it on behalf of the minor.
  • A child entering their teen years needs to have their credit checked before they begin activities that require credit reporting. Employment and applying for student loans are examples of typical teen financial activity.
  • A minor with a credit report needs to have their credit checked annually is recommended to allow you to detect discrepancies.

The Three Major Credit Bureaus:

Equifax: Child Identity Protection Kit

Experian: Credit Advice

TransUnion: Fraud Victim Resources

What to Do if You Believe Your Child's Identity Has Been Stolen

  • Some state laws give parents the ability to freeze a child's credit if identity theft is suspected or even before, as a preventive measure.
  • The first step to take when you suspect identity theft is to contact the local police and report the crime.
  • Generally, parents need to provide the credit bureaus with proof of their authority over a child and identification to freeze a child's credit.
  • Contact the Social Security Administration to request information about your child's earnings. An earnings statement showing earnings associated with a child's Social Security number may indicate identity theft.
  • Sometimes a credit freeze involves a fee, but having a police report may eliminate the fee.
  • Close any accounts in a child's name immediately.

Educational Consumer Information:

FAQs: Children and Identity Theft

American University of Paris : 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen

Arizona State University: ID Theft

Boston University: Taking Charge. What To Do If Your Identity Is Stolen

Dickinson College - Identity Theft: Who's Got Your Number?

University of Florida Expert Cautions Parents to be Aware of Child Identity Theft

University of Texas: Bankruptcy & Identity Theft

The Journal of Consumer Education: The Need for Education of Child Identity Theft

Prevention Guide

  • Monitor the mail your child receives. If you begin to see unsolicited financial offers, this could indicate a problem.
  • Limit the use of your child's Social Security number for identification purposes. Always ask careful questions before giving it out this number.
  • Even releasing the last four digits of a Social Security number carries risk. Protect the child's entire number whenever possible.
  • Use an alternative identifier whenever possible instead of releasing your child's Social Security number.
  • Request a copy of your child's credit report to check for evidence of identity theft.
  • Check with your child's school to learn about how it collects and safeguards student information.
  • Electronic devices give children unlimited access to the Internet, where trouble can occur. Supervise online activity, and educate them about privacy and safety.
  • Credit bureaus have some safeguards in place to protect minors from identity theft. For example, if Experian receives a request for credit information for a minor, the credit bureau will inform the party requesting the information that it is associated with a child, giving the lender the opportunity to cancel the request.
  • Never carry a child's Social Security number in your wallet.
  • Teach children to keep their personal information off of social media websites.
  • Monitor Internet usage of children regularly to protect them from all types of cyber-crimes, including identity theft.
  • Shred documents containing sensitive information instead of throwing them away.

State-Level Consumer Protection:

Alaska State Legislature: Child Identity Theft

California Attorney General: When Your Child's Identity is Stolen

Georgia Dept. of Law Consumer Protection Unit: ID Theft

Indiana Dept. of Revenue: Protect Your Child's Identity

Kansas Attorney General - Consumer Corner: Protect Your Child From Identity Theft

Maine Bureau of Financial Institutions: Credit Reports and ID Theft

New Hampshire Attorney General: Credit Freeze FAQ

NJ Dept. of Children and Families: Credit Reporting Guide

NYS Dept. of Consumer Protection: What You Should Know About Child Identity Theft

North Dakota Attorney General: Is a Minor Child Eligible for a Security Freeze?

Ohio Attorney General: Protect Your Child From Identity Theft

Ohio House of Representatives Passes Bill to Allow Parents to Freeze Child's Credit

The State of Utah: iD Theft Central

Washington State Attorney General: Protect Your ID

West Virginia Attorney General: Protecting Children from Identity Theft During the Holidays

Wisconsin Office of Privacy Protection: Protecting Your Child's Identity

Helpful Consumer Resource:

CreditCards.com: How to Get Your Child's Credit Report