You safeguard your children's physical wellbeing with helmets and seat belts, but what about protecting their identity? In 2016, the FTC received over 15,000 complaints of identity theft that affected children and teenagers -- that's 4% of the total number of identity theft complaints they received.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Even though child identity theft can be difficult to detect, there are a few things to look out for.
If you suspect your child's identity has been stolen, you need to act quickly.
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