Theft of children’s social security numbers is on the rise, warns Linda Criddle, president of the Safe Internet Alliance and one of the nation’s foremost experts on Internet and wireless safety, in a recent blog post. Children’s SSNs are highly prized because they have no credit taint. At least 7% of reported SSN thefts target children — and the actual percentage is probably higher, as the theft is often not detected until the child applies for credit.
The repercussions of a damaged credit score can impact a child for life, Ms. Criddle notes. As child victims of i.d. theft seek loans for college, cars, and homes, they may struggle to qualify and be permanently subject to higher interest and mortgage rates.
Criddle offered the following tips and red flags for parents.
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 social security number. You may be asked to provide your child’s SSN in many circumstances, such as to enroll them for a sports team, or at your 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 out a loan.
Red flags indicating that your child’s financial ID has been stolen
There is no silver bullet to protect your child from ID theft, but there are some red flags. Be suspicious if:
- Your child receives any unsolicited credit offers in his or her name, or notices from debt collectors.
- Someone who has access to the child’s SSN shows sudden evidence of prosperity.
- You get a notice from the IRS saying the SSN number you used on your tax return (or on their tax return) is a duplicate number.
- Your insurance company denies a claim for your child because they have already covered the procedure.
- The bank notifies you when you go to establish a savings account for your child that an account using that SSN already exists.
- You receive a warrant for a traffic violation for a child without a drivers license.
- Your child is denied government assistance because records show they are already receiving benefits.
- You get a request for a job verification when your child has never had a job.
The Identity Theft Resource Center also has some interesting tips and advice on how to take action if your suspet identity theft.
Have you ever considered the possibility of this occurring? Do you and your family have identity theft protection? Please feel free to share tips in the comments!
Photo used with permission of Flickr Creative Commons.