March 4, 2012

Is Your Child at Risk for Identity Theft?

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    Child identity theft is one of the fastest growing ID theft crimes.  Opening credit files is linked to a social security number, and while the social security administration gives a number to child for tax purposes, it often goes unused for sixteen to eighteen years.  This means the theft can go undetected for a very long time, making it an ideal crime for criminals who want to commit this sort of fraud.

    Parents are the number one perpetrators of child ID theft, but we’re assuming you’re not the potential culprit.  However, estranged parents and spouses can be.  So can grandparents, aunts, or uncles who might have had access to your child’s SSN at one point or another.  Your child’s ID theft risk increases with each additional person who knows the social security number.  There’s never a real reason to share the SSN number with people outside the family.

    If you carry your child’s SSN card in your wallet or purse, now is the time to stop.  Put it in a file cabinet or box full of vital documents that is securely locked or hidden in your home.  You don’t want to put your child at risk when your wallet is lost or stolen any more than you’d like to be put at risk.

    If your child is at the point where he’s seeking employment be careful that he only works for legitimate companies.  Craigslist, in particular, has become a haven for false employers whose only goal is to get people’s personal information.  Encourage your child to go ahead and conduct his job hunt in the old fashioned ways with companies you know and trust.  Never allow your child to fill out a job application over the Internet.

    Another common theft risk involves social security numbers passed on to health providers or child’s sports teams.  It’s an unnecessary risk to take as the insurance information should be the important information.  Note that while the people in your doctor’s office or Little League team might be perfectly trustworthy the end result may still be a problem: there are companies that go seeking out dormant SSNs and re-sell them.  An SSN given out this way may well find itself on those lists.

    If your child starts receiving pre-approved credit offers in the mail it’s time to watch out, because chances are someone has already begun using the number.  You can’t get those offers until you have a credit report, and you don’t get a credit report until someone applies for credit.  If you see one of those offers pull your child’s credit report right away and begin taking steps to protect his identity.

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