While adults with active credit cards, mortgages and car loans may worry far more about identity theft than their carefree children, research shows children are far from immune to the crime. In fact, as many as 1 in 40 families with children under the age of 18 have had at least one kid fall victim to ID theft, according to a 2012 survey by the Identity Theft Assistance Center and the Javelin Strategy & Research group.
Identity thieves target children because their credit records are often free of any blemishes that could hinder the thief’s ability to borrow. Plus, with the minor still years away from applying for their first college loan or credit card, chances are fraud on a child’s account would go undetected for far longer than their more financially active parents.
When it comes to preventing child identity theft, parents often have few options. Once a child’s personal information is compromised, parents across most of the country are not authorized to place a credit freeze on their children’s accounts. Some states, however, have enacted laws allowing parents to freeze their children’s accounts as long as they are minors in the hopes of preventing future credit fraud.
Ohio’s proposed anti-fraud legislation
Now, Ohio is looking to become the 23rd state to adopt such legislation. The bill in question would give parents the power to open a credit account for children under the age of 16, then immediately freeze it. As a result, any future requests to open new lines of credit would need to be verified by the account holder. This would be a major roadblock in the path of an ID thief looking to open a credit card or mortgage under an unknowing child’s name.
While laws like these are becoming increasingly popular for their ability to add a layer of identity theft protection for children, they unfortunately cannot prevent all cases of child identity theft, the National Conference of State Legislatures reported.
Detecting child identity theft
While it can often be impossible to tell if your child is being targeted by identity thieves, there are a few telltale signs that may suggest his or her identity has been stolen and that the criminals are using it to commit credit fraud. Here are a few warning signs to watch out for, according to Bankrate:
- Collection agencies call your child.
- Your child receives credit card offers before the age of 18.
- Credit card or medical bills arrive in the mail addressed to your child.
- The IRS notifies you that your child has been claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return.
- The Social Security Administration reaches out to confirm your child’s status of employment, even if he or she has never had a job.
These are just a few of the signs that may indicate someone is using your child’s personal information without authorization. If you detect these or any similar behaviors, contact the credit bureaus and any companies where you believe your child’s information was used improperly. The Federal Trade Commission also recommends filing a report with them online, as well as with local law enforcement officials if the fraud involved medical services or taxes.
It can be a long and grueling process to reconcile your child’s damages from identity theft, but there is help. Consider signing up for an identity theft protection service that can address your entire family’s needs, like Identity Guard’s family plan. The family plan covers a parent or two parents and the children in a household. The plan includes social security monitoring, 3-bureau monitoring, and identity theft victim assistance. To learn more about how you can better protect your child’s identity, contact us today.