One company is offering a new way to protect your kiddies from identity theft, for free.
AllClear ID unveiled its ChildScan service this week, which allows parents to put their child's Social Security number on a watch list monitored by credit reporting bureau TransUnion at no cost.
Your child's SSN will be blocked from being used to open new credit accounts until the child turns 17. If the scan detects possible fraud associated with the SSN, AllClear will investigate and repair any damage done to your child's identity.
The service searches all credit records with your child's SSN, employment records, criminal records and medical accounts, according to the website.
AllClear launched the service after its own survey this year showed that more than 1 in 10 children were victims of identity theft. (A report last year by the Federal Trade Commission found that child identity theft complaints have more than tripled since 2003.)
Children make attractive ID victims, because fraudsters get a clean slate when it comes to establishing a new identity. The crime often goes undetected for years, too, until the child is old enough to apply for credit on his or her own. Sadly, the parents often are the perpetrators of the crime, typically when their own credit already has been ruined.
Red flags for child ID theft include: getting preapproved credit card offers and other loan offers in your child's name; receiving calls from debt collectors looking for your child; getting medical or other bills in your child's name; being denied government benefits because they were paid out to someone using your child's SSN; or the IRS contacts you about your child's employment or taxes.
If you suspect child ID theft, contact the three credit reporting bureaus -- TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. No child under 18 years old should have a credit report, because that would mean credit was extended to the child, or someone posing as your child.
The Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit that supports victims of ID theft, recommends that parents send a letter to the bureaus that includes your child's full name, date of birth and previous addresses for the last five years. Include a copy of the child's birth certificate, a copy of your child's Social Security card and a copy of your state ID card. You should get a response within 30 days.
Maryland parents have an even better option to stop ID theft before it happens. Last month, state lawmakers passed a law that allows parents to place a freeze on their children's credit report as a preemptive measure against identity theft.
A credit freeze prevents new creditors from pulling a credit report, thus making it nearly impossible for fraudsters to qualify for unauthorized credit under someone else's name.
Should all parents be able to freeze their children's credit?
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