Adults aren’t the only ones who can have their identity stolen.
In 2015 tens of millions of American children had their Social Security numbers, date of birth and health care ID numbers stolen in the data breach at health insurance giant, Anthem Inc. Later the same year, the personal information of parents and children was exposed after a hacker broke into the servers of Vtech, a company that sells children’s electronic toys and gadgets. Every year registration forms for schools, sports leagues and doctors’ offices require a minor’s Social Security number and medical id numbers. As a parent, do you know how that information is being stored, protected and/or destroyed? All this activity exposes your children to the risk of identity theft.
One would think that children would be safe from identity theft because of their age. But in reality, it is much more lucrative and attractive to criminals to use a child’s Social Security number, simply because they have a blank slate for credit and they usually don’t have a pre-existing profile in the credit reporting companies.
Unfortunately, parents are often unaware of this problem until it’s too late. Parents might try to get government benefits for their child, only to find that someone else is drawing benefits based on the child’s Social Security number. A teen may get turned down for student loans because of a bad credit history. A more frightening scenario is the theft of a child’s medical identity. If a child visits a hospital that shares medical records where the identity thief had a medical procedure, the child’s blood type and allergic medication may have been changed causing serious consequences.
Child identity theft needs to be taken seriously.
KNOW THE WARNING SIGNS
Look for warning signs that may include:
- An influx of credit card and loan offers addressed to your child
- An Internal Revenue Service notice that your child didn’t pay income taxes or was claimed as a dependent on another tax return
- Medical EOB statements that have incorrect date of birth or medical treatments are being refused
- Your child is denied a bank account or driver’s license
CHECK YOUR CHILD’S CREDIT REPORT
Unfortunately, checking your child’s credit report isn’t as simple as checking your own. You’ll have to mail or fax in documentation proving that you are, indeed, your child’s parent or guardian. This may include copies of the child’s birth certificate and Social Security Card, a copy of your own ID and a list of the last few addresses for the child. Each of the three major credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – has its own process for checking a minor’s credit report. Check the individual credit union’s website to get more details.
TO FREEZE OR NOT TO FREEZE
Freezing your credit keeps your credit report from going out to any potential lenders unless you intentionally “thaw” your credit report first. In many states, if you child does not have a credit report yet their credit cannot be frozen. A few states have laws in place allowing the credit bureau to create an empty credit file that can then be frozen. Check with the three major credit bureaus to see what is possible in your state.
PURCHASE IDENTITY PROTECTION
A quality Identity Protection Plan will monitor all your child’s credit activity in addition to their Social Security, criminal, housing and medical activity.
At Kuderer Financial, LLC we can assist you in sorting through the options for Identity Protection and make sure your child’s credit and personal information is protected. Contact us and let us know how we can guide you to the best strategy in protecting your family.