Reports show an increasing number of children are being targeted by fraudsters looking to commit identity theft. As guardians, parents are tasked with safeguarding their children’s identities; however, even the tightest security may not always guarantee full protection against identity theft. But there are a few steps parents should take if they believe their child’s identity may have been compromised.
Look for the warning signs
While it can be difficult to verify that a child has been the victim of identity theft, a few signs may help parents make this determination.
- Credit mailings and offerings — Preapproved credit card or loan offers that are addressed to a child may be evidence that his or her identity has been compromised.
- Denials — Banks may refuse to open new savings accounts for children on the basis of poor credit reports and scores. This is a sign their identity may have been stolen, because children usually do not have credit reports and scores in their names until they become adults. Additionally, children turned down for a driver’s license, a new job or a health procedure on the basis of poor credit may have also been victimized.
- Debt calls — Government institutions or private debt collection agencies may try to contact children to follow up on financial obligations. These calls may also suggest identity theft.
- Check credit reports and scores — Parents can submit a written request for information on behalf of their child to each of the three credit bureaus. While this action can be beneficial, they should only do so if they strongly suspect that their child’s identity has been stolen. There are proper procedures for requesting that information without doing additional harm to a child’s future credit reports and scores.
- Place a fraud alert on credit accounts — If information from the credit bureaus confirms a case of identity theft, parents should place a fraud alert at each of the three credit bureaus, which can help prevent thieves from opening new accounts in the future. They can also set an alert by contacting the major credit bureaus.
- Close fraudulent accounts — Parents should close any unauthorized credit accounts opened in their child’s name. Each creditor should provide assistance without charging the child for the fraudulent accounts.
- File a police report with local authorities — An initial police report may provide validation to future creditors that a child was a victim of identity theft and not an irresponsible credit borrower.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) — Parents should then file a complaint with the FTC, so it can begin an investigation. The agency’s online form is available at www.ftc.gov/complaint.