By Barbara Pronin
Because criminals are always looking for new ways to get and use personal information, identity theft is an ever-growing problem. But the really scary fact is that identity theft for children five and under has doubled in the past year alone.
That is because, says the Wall Street Journal, if someone gets hold of private information about your child, they can use it to try to open a credit account in your child’s name – and it often works if the credit issuer takes the information provided at face value. The bonus for criminals is that the theft is often not even noticed until the child applies for credit when he or she is of age.
But parents can and should take steps to prevent child identity theft by safeguarding information, being alert to irregularities, and reviewing credit reports annually.
To keep your child safe:
- Be careful about providing anyone with your child’s Social Security number.
- Regularly monitor your child’s credit report to be sure there is no credit noted.
- If you attempt to open a savings account or other account for your child and you are told that an account already exists with his or her Social Security number, follow up on this red flag.
- If you begin to receive offers of credit in your child’s name, or if a collection company calls for him or her, you can assume there has been an ID theft
If you discover that your child’s identity or any of their personal information has been stolen, you should first review his or her credit report. Then contact the three credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. If there are issues, you will need to verify that your child is a minor. You will need to place fraud alerts on the accounts. You should also file a police report and notify the Federal Trade Commission.