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Children’s Identity Theft: A Growing Problem

It is necessary to share your child’s personal data in many places such as school, church, camp, doctors, and it’s possible the information could be compromised. Worse, though is many young people are coerced into sharing information through social networking sites and don‘t realize those titbits are enough for a dishonest person to capitalize on.

The Problem

Identity theft has been a problem for decades, but in recent years, a growing number of criminals have begun targeting children’s identities. There may be several reasons for this. First, a child’s credit history is clean. There are no derogatory marks to reduce the availability of credit. Second, a child’s identity can be used in multiple ways. Lines of credit might be established, utilities may be opened, government benefits may be claimed, homes might be purchased, and employment may be sought. Third, a child’s personal information might be easier to obtain in some instances. This can be due in part to lax safety precautions or to the naiveté of children. Lastly, and likely most appealing to offenders, the chances of a thief being detected are less because children don’t monitor their credit and parents often find no reason for identity theft protection. This can lead to long lasting use, the effects of which can be devastating.

The Effects

Because a child’s identity can be used for such a lengthy period, there can be many harmful effects. In the event a stolen identity is used for credit, which is defaulted on, a child’s credit score can be ruined before they are even of age, to obtain credit. If the information is used for long standing accounts and goes undetected into adulthood, it can prevent the victim from being allowed access to services when they need them such as establishing an account with a utility provider. If the offender is employed under the stolen identity, the child may have a history of taxes due, social security wages will be skewed, and state and federal governments could potentially file a financial claim. In some cases, child identity theft leads to the victim’s name being used when other felonious activities are prosecuted and could give a young child a criminal record, which is difficult to correct.

The Signs

Some warning signs that your child’s identity has been compromised are subtle while others instantly cause alarm. Obviously, calls from collection agencies, and notices from financial or government institutions are reason for concern. Other signs may be overlooked as simple errors such as junk mail coming addressed to your child. Additional warning signs are denial of benefits due to benefits already being collected and warnings of a poor credit history when trying to open an account. In certain cases, parents who have been victims of identity theft may also see their child’s identity stolen, since their information being compromised could indicate their children’s information having been compromised as well.  Since identity theft often comes from various means such as, information obtained through electronic sources, through theft of a wallet or purse, or through a break-in, if a parent’s information is compromised; there is a good chance the child’s information has been, too.  Any parent dealing with identity theft should take precautions to prevent identity theft for their children.

The Solution

Preventing identity theft is the best way to protect your child from this disastrous event. Use caution anytime you are required to share your child’s information. Check with any organization such as schools and doctor’s offices to learn more about their data protection procedures and sharing policies. Limit access to your child’s personal information by others. Teach your children about identity theft and advise them about giving out information to strangers. Monitor their activities online to be sure; they do not post personal information publicly.

Periodically checking with the credit bureaus on your child’s behalf is another good practice if anything suspicious has taken place. Just as you would with your own documents, be sure to take proper precautions before disposing of paperwork with personal information of your children.  Shredding this paperwork is the key to protection. Many experts recommend taking extra precautions when traveling with children because of the identifying documents you are required to carry. Some even recommend obtaining, identity theft protection services when traveling abroad. If you have been a victim or if you feel your child’s identifying information may have been compromised, place fraud alerts with the credit bureaus and other government agencies.

Nothing can guarantee 100% safety of your child’s identity, but understanding the above concepts can make you a well-informed parent and better equip you to both protect your child and to help them recover if they are ever affected by identity theft. As is frequently said, knowledge is power.

Amy Johnson is an active blogger who is fond of sharing interesting finance related articles to encourage people to manage and protect their finances with regular credit checks.