The Federal Trade Commission reports that as many as 10 million individuals per year have their identities stolen. Many of these victims are children. In fact, the Identity Theft Resource Center reports that children are 51 times more likely to become the victims of identity theft than adults. Once a child’s identity is stolen, it can take years for the fraud to be discovered.
Here are some steps you can take to help protect your child from identity theft:
Watch for Red Flags
Be on the lookout for credit card or loan offers addressed to your child or IRS notices saying your child did not pay income taxes. In addition, collection calls or bills sent to your child may be signs of identity theft, so be sure to follow up with the sender if something looks suspicious. Finally, if your child is ever denied a driver’s licenses, bank account, or government benefits, it’s possible their Social Security number may have already been used.
Check Your Child’s Credit Report
Should your child decide to take out a loan to establish credit, only to find they already have a score, it’s likely that their identity has already been stolen. If you suspect your child might be a victim of identity theft, it’s important to check all three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — right away.
Freeze Your Child’s Credit
A credit freeze keeps your — or your child’s — credit report from going out to any lenders or even utility companies until you chose to “thaw” the account. If your child has a credit report, you should try to freeze the account right away. If your child does not have a credit report, that’s great! But if you want to be extra cautious, you may be able to freeze your child’s account now to prevent an identity thief from potentially borrowing on their credit in the future.
You are your child’s first line of defense, so it’s important for you to take precautions. Being vigilant and proactive can help you protect your child’s financial future.
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