If a credit card offer for your 3-year-old child shows up in the mail, don’t just scoff and throw it in the trash.
Discounting the seemingly accidental offer could be dangerous, according to experts.
That’s because getting such offers could be a sign that your child might be a victim of identity theft and it’s worth taking the time to dig a little deeper.
The last thing on a new parents mind is protecting their new bundle’s identity, but it’s an important consideration for parents, especially in light of some stats surrounding the issue:
- Five percent of the identity theft victims in 2015 were under the age of 19, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
- One in 40 families with children under 18 had at least one child whose personal information was compromised, according to a recent survey by the Identity Theft Assistance Center and the Javelin Strategy & Research group (2012).
Undetected For Years
Part of the problem of child identity theft comes from how long it can go on undetected. Think about it, there’s no real reason to look into a child’s credit until they’re teenagers and perhaps applying for student loans for college or their first car. At that point, the fraud could have been happening for years before it’s discovered.
In an Oct. 2016 post on Reddit, a 25-year-old user who goes by Credmee shared their story.
“I was the victim of identity theft as a child/teen and have terrible credit,” he writes. “I have been working on fixing it since I turned 18, but despite it being several years later, (I) have not been able to totally undo the damage.”
So what is the damage, exactly? A credit score in the 400s, which makes it extremely difficult to find a place to rent, the person writes. The story illustrates very clearly how child identity theft victims can struggle for years to fix the damage.
Sadly enough, sometimes it’s a family member who steals the child’s identity.
In another Reddit post from 2016, user Zero-To-Hero admits that’s what happened to him and his “credit was trashed before I even started,” he writes.
The theft apparently started when he was 12; he didn’t find out until he joined the military and was getting his security clearance. “They were questioning how my credit was so horrible at (age) 18.”
Dead Children Targeted
It’s not unheard of for criminals to even steal the identities of dead children.
A Salem, Oregon man arrested in mid January, 2017, assumed the identity of a 8-year-old car crash victim, according to federal authorities. Charles Hollin changed his identity after molesting a young girl; he fled authorities in Indiana and using the new identity, obtained an $80,000 home equity loan and a Minnesota driver’s license, according to this Associated Press story. Facial recognition software helped bring him to justice, recently. He was arrested while working at a Wal-Mart and admitted to his true identity.
Back in October 2016, news broke that a North Carolina state employee faces criminal charges for stealing a dead baby’s identity. The thief used the stolen identity to get a job, buy a home and a car. The baby, named Forrest Mark Shook, tragically died back in 1969 when he was just 4 months old. Johnny Shaver, who worked for the University of North Carolina Charlotte for 20 years, was caught when he attempted to get a duplicate birth certificate. Since there was a death certificate on file, the request was flagged.
Signs of Child Identity Theft
So along with suspicious mail, what are some other signs of child identity theft you should watch for?
- Getting collection calls for a minor child.
- Being notified by the IRS that there are unpaid taxes in your child’s name or that a child’s Social Security number was used on another tax return.
- Getting bills in your child’s name for products or services that were not ever ordered or delivered.
- Being declined for government benefits because benefits are being paid to another account that’s using the child’s Social Security number.
Tips for Keeping Your Child’s Identity Safe
Here are some helpful tips regarding how you can help safeguard your child’s identity.
- Monitor your child’s internet usage.
- Keep your child’s social security card and other identification documents in a safe and secure spot (not your wallet!).
- Don’t post personal details about your child online. You don’t want an identity thief to have your child’s full name, address or date of birth.
- Be careful when it comes to forms from schools, doctor offices and others asking for personally identifiable information about your child. Skip it, if you can, or see if you can use the last four digits only.
- Just as you shred all of your own documents that contain personal information, shred all documents that show your child’s personally identifiable information.
- Remember, you can request a credit report for your child once a year for free at www.annualcreditreport.com. There should be no credit history on record. If there is, it’s likely there’s a problem and you should begin digging deeper.
It’s at this point that people who are covered by LibertyID can take a deep breath and rest easier knowing they have someone to call who can help them resolve the mess. Some estimates show it can take up to 200 hours to resolve identity theft. When you’re covered by LibertyID, a dedicated specialist handles everything for you and will restore your child’s identity.
Are you covered for identity theft?