smart spending

9 ways to combat child identity theft

Protect your child's Social Security number
Protect your child's Social Security number © Dmytro Mykhailov/Shutterstock.com

Your child's Social Security number is the holy grail for identity thieves. With it they can create a new identity, set up credit accounts and start racking up debt.

Credit reports aren't supposed to be set up for minors, but this detail often slips through the cracks, says Steve Weisman, an attorney and founder of Scamicide.com.

Identity thieves lie about age, and according to Scott Mitic, the former CEO of TrustedID and senior vice president at Equifax, one of the three nationwide credit-reporting agencies, "There is not a single way in that space to be definitive about the age of the individual creating the report."

You are your child's key line of defense, so don't carry your child's Social Security number around in your wallet. If you mail documents with your child's personal information, drop it in a secure mailbox. Shred documents with this identifying information.

Share your child's Social Security number only when absolutely necessary. When extracurricular groups ask for it, see if they'll accept an alternative identifying number. "Social Security numbers typically don't need to be shared unless there are tax implications," according to TrustedID, an identity protection and privacy service.

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