Because identity theft of children is more likely to go unnoticed, it can be especially damaging. Thieves sometimes have years of doing damage to the child’s credit before being detected.

Why are children targets of identity theft?

Because they don’t pay bills, take out loans, or hold credit, a child’s credit are a clean slate that criminals can exploit. And because of the lack of use of credit, parents and guardians oftentimes don’t consider monitoring a child’s credit or identity.

The exploitation of a child’s identity often won’t be discovered until the child needs to use his or her Social Security Number, like on an application for college, financial aid, or their first credit card.

How are identities used by criminals?

A child’s identity is the same as an adult’s, despite the age, so criminals are able to perform the same crimes as they are on anyone else’s identity: open credit cards, get a mortgage or auto loan, commit tax or health insurance fraud, and conceal their own identity to avoid arrest.

Because these crimes go unnoticed for longer periods of time, it becomes very hard to to clear up the problems they cause. It’s imperative to be proactive in protecting your child’s identity.

How can I protect my child’s identity?

While thieves are creative and motivated, you can still do a lot to reduce the risk of your child becoming a victim of identity theft.

  • Never share your child’s Social Security Number with anyone who doesn’t have a very good reason for needing it.
  • Pay attention to the privacy policies of your child’s schools, clubs, dentists and doctors offices, sports teams, churches, etc. Those policies detail how sensitive information will be used, handled, and protected.
  • Avoid oversharing on social media.
  • Keep a safe home to prevent burglars from getting important documents like birth certificates and Social Security cards.
  • Teach your children the importance of keeping their identity safe.
  • Use WatchdogID to monitor for their identity on the deep web and other sources.

What are the signs my child’s identity has been compromised?

Even though child identity theft can be difficult to detect, there are a few things to look out for.

  • Pre-approval offers for credit cards.
  • Bills that come in your child’s name that you did not specifically put in their name.
  • Collection notices in your child’s name.
  • Applications for government benefits denied because benefits are being paid to someone using your child’s identity.
  • Tax letters from the IRS in your child’s name. (However, any phone call from someone claiming to be with IRS is almost always fraudulent. The IRS communicates with taxpayers by US mail.

What if my child’s identity has been stolen?

If you suspect your child’s identity has been stolen, you need to act quickly.

  • Report the theft to the credit bureaus and have them place a fraud alert on your child’s credit file.
  • If you suspect new account fraud, alert the holder of the debt (such as the bank issuing the loan).
  • Alert your child’s bank to the theft.
  • Consult local law enforcement to see if filing an incident report is necessary. (If a theft is apparent, you definitely need to file a report.)