You don't want it to happen. Your child gets his or her first job and they go to open a bank account. They are denied because of all the bad checks that were written – not by your child but in their name. Child identity theft happens. The youngest victim was only 1 month old. So, how do you know? Here are 5 things to watch.
1. Collection Agencies Are Calling. You get a call from a collection agency saying your minor child (under the age of 18) owes money. Don't just tell them they're wrong. Contact the three credit agencies and follow their procedures to see if accounts have been opened in your child's name.
2. They're Offering Credit. A child shouldn't be getting credit card offers in their name through the mail. After all, they shouldn't have any credit at all. Offers coming in your child's name are a red flag.
3. They're Getting Bills. Out of the blue, your child is getting bills in the mail. They may be for credit card balances or, even, from medical providers. It could just be a mistake – or it could be a problem. Once again, this is a red flag and you should take appropriate action to make sure that their identity is safe.
4. You're Denied The Help You Need. Your family – or your child – applies for federal benefits and is turned down. You are told that the social security number is already receiving benefits. Act immediately.
5. You Hear From The IRS. The IRS (or the Social Security Administration requests confirmation that the child employed. Hmmm … not many 10-year-olds or 5 year-olds have jobs. You could also be contacted by the IRS to notify you that your child was claimed on someone else's tax return or that the child owes taxes, again, on income the child never earned.
What do you do? Twenty-two states give parents the right to create a to create a credit report and freeze it to protect your minor children. Equifax allows parents in any state to do this. The downside is that you have created a credit report. The CEO of Identity Theft Resource Center, Eva Velasquez, says "We're still a little leery of advising parents do to an inquiry." Just making the inquiry creates a credit file and the parent has created activity where there shouldn't be any. Experian won't freeze a file unless one has been created which means that the child's identity has already been compromised or if you live in a state that gives you that right. TransUnion will create and suppress a minor's credit file if there is any evidence of identity theft or, again, if you live in a state that gives you this right. Guard your child's information, birth certificate and social security numbers. Be aware of the danger signs. If you suspect a problem, check it out – even though the process is not easy.
Your child is vulnerable and so are businesses. Business identity theft can also go undetected or a longer period of time and the losses may be greater. Make sure your employer is keeping your private information private and if you own a business, take extra care. One recommended deterrent is to use an on-site shredding company so you can protect records waiting to be destroyed in a locked bin and see them destroyed right at your place of business. Your identity and your child's identity can be stolen – be alert!