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As adults, we have bills and financial accounts, as well as other responsibilities that make us distinctly aware of the dangers associated with identity theft.
When someone steals your identity, your financial future can be at risk. But adults are not the only ones affected by this; just like adults, minors and children also have credit and identities that can be stolen.
To help you and your children obtain the future you desire, it’s important to stay vigilant. Here is everything you need to know about the effects of identity theft on children, how to spot it, and what you can do to prevent it.
Age is not a requirement for becoming a victim of identity theft, and anyone with a Social Security number is susceptible to it. These types of thieves do not consider age when selecting their victims and unfortunately, child identity theft has become an all-too-common problem. With every passing year, nearly 1 million children will have their identity stolen.
Much like adults, there are a variety of ways a child’s identity can be stolen. Sensitive information can be found on documents at hospitals, schools, and more. Even parents or other family members can use a child’s Social Security number to open accounts, apply for government benefits, and the like.
Like a clean slate, a child’s identity can be used to become the name, address, and age of anyone who steals it.
Depending on the extent of the damage, identity theft can create a financial battle for your child that could last for years. Not only will it stop them from having any good credit to begin their adulthood, but it also creates a long journey of paperwork, phone calls, and legal issues. Repairing the damage could last months and even years.
Unfortunately for many children, the effects of identity theft can be especially harsh. This is mostly due to the fact that the identity of a child can be stolen for years before it is noticed; as a child does not need or use their credit. Some may not even know anything has happened until they reach adulthood and begin to use their credit – only to discover that there has been an issue all along.
Though identity theft isn’t always clear-cut and easy to spot, there are several red flags that can help you recognize it, including:
- Calls from collection agencies
- Offers for credit cards addressed to the child
- Credits cards, bills, etc. addressed to the child
- IRS/Social Security notices, etc.
It is important to remember, however, that it can be many years before anything is noticeable, and some people may not receive any of these warning signs. If the person or entity that has stolen your child’s credit keeps it in good standing, it is possible to never know the difference until your child’s credit is checked.
If any warning signs of identity theft arise, it is important to look into it immediately. Fortunately, it is quite easy to discover whether your child has become a victim or not. Since a minor does not have the ability to own or possess credit yet, the child should have no credit report. By contacting annualcreditreport.com, you can find out if your child has a credit file in his or her name.
If you discover or are suspicious that your child has become a victim of identity theft, there are a variety of steps that can be taken to clean up and monitor their credit:
- Contact companies and businesses that are on the child’s credit report.
- Contact the credit reporting agency
- Place a fraud alert on the child’s credit.
- File disputes with the credit reporting agencies.
- Consider freezing your child’s credit if any discrepancy is found, to prevent any more from occurring during the “clean up” process.
- Contact the police and create an identification theft report.
- Limit the people or organizations that have access to personal information.
- Many programs, schools, medical facilities, and other organizations may ask for specific information that is not even necessary. When possible, decline to provide a Social Security number.
- You are also within your rights to ask a school, agency, or organization about what they will do with your documentation, paperwork, and personal information. Anyone with your child’s Social Security number is responsible for disposing of it properly.
- As you would with paperwork and documents for all adults, it is important to keep a child’s personal data in a private and secure place, to limit the chances of someone stealing the information.
With the proper education and prevention, your child can begin their financial journey with the healthiest start possible. As professionals dedicated to helping all of our members to reach their financial dreams, Marine Federal Credit Union is here for you at any age!
Federally insured by NCUA. Membership eligibility required.
Source: ABC News