Children can be vulnerable targets for identity theft, because those under the age of 18 typically do not have a credit report.
That means they are often a blank slate for fraudsters who can apply for credit and take out loans in their name. Use of a child’s Social Security number for fraudulent purposes can go undetected for years, since parents may not check their children’s credit status. It’s only later, when the child is a young adult and attempting to rent an apartment or get a credit card, that the identity theft is discovered.
Children’s information can also be used in what’s known as “synthetic identity theft.” This occurs when fake identities are created using information from different people or false information. It can also include real Social Security numbers.
The thought of someone stealing your child’s identity can be frightening. But there are some steps you can take to help better protect their information.
Check your child’s credit. Start by checking to see if your child has a credit report. If they do, that may be a red flag indicating possible identity theft. If a credit report is found, inform the credit bureau it may be fraudulent.
Consider a free security freeze. Security freezes are one tool you can use to prevent access to your child’s credit reports. A credit report will be created for your child, then frozen. If you are the parent or legal guardian of a child under 16, you can place a security freeze on their credit reports. You’ll need to provide proof of your identity and theirs and proof that you are their parent or legal guardian.
Security freezes must be placed separately with each of the three nationwide credit bureaus.
the Equifax Minor Freeze Request Form for instructions on
placing a security freeze, what documents you’ll need and the mailing
address. You can also contact Experian and TransUnion.
Consider a credit monitoring product. Look for a credit monitoring product that includes monitoring a child's Social Security number for activity. Some products may allow you to lock or unlock your child’s credit report.
Keep your child’s documents in a safe place. This includes your child’s Social Security card, birth certificate, medical insurance card, any legal documents and his or her passport.
Don’t share your child’s personal information unless it’s absolutely necessary. Ask whether your child’s doctor needs his or her Social Security number, or if you could provide the last four digits. If you must provide it to his or her school, ask how the information will be protected and who can access it.
Educate your children about online behavior. As your child grows older, educate him or her about online privacy and security, and set rules for what information cannot be shared online. Talk to them about how to politely refuse when asked to share personal information online or in person.