Children are prime targets of identity thieves.
That's why parents need to take steps to minimize their child's risk of being victimized by this type of crime, according to Heather Battison, senior director of consumer education at TransUnion, a credit information company in Chicago.
"In many cases, the key elements required to open a credit account are a name and Social Security number. Since a child's Social Security number represents a 'clean slate' and has the potential to go undetected for years, it represents an appealing target to most identity theft thieves," Battison said in a statement.
More than 19,000 cases of child identity theft were reported to the Federal Trade Commission last year, up from about 6,000 eight years earlier. Those numbers might seem small, but the consequences for the child's future credit and employment can be serious.
With that in mind, here are some tips, courtesy of the credit reporting service, TransUnion, to help parents safeguard a child's identity.
- Be mindful of the personal information the child carries around day to day. Keep sensitive data in a safe place, not at the bottom of a school bag.
- Teach children not to give personal information to strangers.
- Consider hand-delivering any forms that contain personal information or medical records directly to the school instead of sending them with your child.
- Watch for warning signs of child identity theft.
One such sign is suspicious mail, such as pre-approved credit card offers, that normally would be sent to adults but is sent to the child in his or her name. Two other signs are a prior-existing financial account that's discovered when a new account is opened and an application for credit is denied due to a poor credit history.
The creation of a consumer credit file is triggered by an application for credit, a credit account or a public record. That means a child who has an existing credit report already might have been a target or victim of identity theft.
If your child has been targeted or victimized, get help. Request a credit bureau investigation and follow up with any additional information that might help to protect your child from fraudulent activity.
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