Although statistics are not kept on identity theft victims under 18, estimates indicate the crime affects more than 500,000 children nationally each year, according to the Florida Attorney General’s Office in an article in the Palm Beach Post.
The article goes on to quote Linda Criddle saying:
Children’s SSNs are highly prized because children have no credit history, said Linda Criddle, president of the Safe Internet Alliance in San Diego. She warns that theft of children’s SSNs is on the rise.
The two primary threats to children’s financial identities are family members, even parents, who want to open a new line of credit, and professional thieves who use computers and public information to find SSNs, Criddle said. They use sophisticated programs to search for the numbers through databases kept by schools, doctors and insurance companies. The criminals then sell the unblemished numbers to people who use them to obtain credit cards and rack up huge debts they will not have to repay.
Criddle offers these suggestions to reduce your child’s risk of financial ID theft:
- Keep Social Security cards locked up. These don’t belong in wallets or loose in your home where others may come across them.
- Tightly restrict sharing your child’s SSN. You may be asked to provide your child’s SSN in many circumstances, such as to enroll him or her for a sports team, or at the doctor’s office. However, you do not need to give their SSN – you can show other evidence of age or information that your health care provider needs for billing.
- Teach your children not to share their SSNs. When they are applying for jobs, at which point they finally do have to share the number, make sure the employer and company are legitimate so the risk of resale is low.
- When creating a bank account for your child, set up only a savings account and make sure there is no overdraft protection included.
- Monitor your child’s credit as you do your own. If you wait until you see a red flag, a lot of damage may have occurred, and often you’ll see no red flag at all until your child seeks credit. Running a credit report does introduce some risk, but you can mitigate this by freezing their credit. This way, if the very act of checking your child’s credit history generated a credit file you have squashed the chances for abuse. Unfreeze their credit when they do seek a loan.
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