Miranda’s mother, Rachel, first learned that her daughter’s Social Security number had been stolen when Miranda was six years old, according to a report by KSL.com. Rachel was instructed by the Workforce Services to use the Utah Attorney General’s Office ID Theft Central website to file a complaint. She did so immediately, and also reported the incident to the police and put a freeze on Miranda’s credit files. Rachel told KSL.com that the process was taxing.
“We keep all our Social Security numbers in a safe,” Rachel said. “It’s not like I’m carrying it around in my purse for it to be taken or anything. They’re protected, they’re under lock and key.”
Scott Morrill, program manager for IDTheft.Utah.gov, said that child identity theft is a growing concern at the Attorney General’s Office, noting that “We have over 500 cases we’re looking at.” Morrill added that he had seen victims of fraud burdened with huge debts, such as teenagers with $300,000 mortgages. Some children end up owning taxes despite never having held a job.
For those children who don’t discover the fraud until adulthood the consequences can be severe, which is why Utah has implemented a program to protect children from identity theft. The program hopes to keep thieves from using children’s Social Security numbers to obtain credit. Today, about 13,600 Utah children are enrolled in this free program, which reports, tracks and reviews identity theft. According to Scott Morrill the program is the only one of its kind in the United States.
Little Miranda got her Social Security number back, after three long years of anxiety and countless phone calls. The individual who had stolen her identity was found and arrested. Now, her mother Rachel says diligent bookkeeping is essential for families who want to protect their children.
Here are a few more steps to take to help keep your children and their identities safe:
- Protect their sensitive information: Don’t give out your child’s Social Security number and find out what schools and doctor’s offices do with your child’s information. Find out if they have security measures in place and what they do in cases when information needs to be disposed of.
- Check credit reports: Contact credit bureaus to find out if your child has a credit report on file. You will be required to prove your relationship to the child before you can access this information. It’s also a good idea to sign up for a credit monitoring service, which can find certain activity that might suggest that someone is using your child’s identity as their own.
- E-file taxes: Sometimes identity thieves get their hands on a child’s information by stealing parents’ tax documents. Filing your taxes online reduces the chances of theft. If you do file paper taxes make sure to mail them from the Post Office directly, instead of leaving them in your home mailbox.
Protecting your and your child’s identity is a matter of remaining vigilant and taking steps to make sure sensitive information is safe.