Securing your child's identity: Advice every parent should know
Online scammers are finding inactive Social Security numbers online - most of which are assigned to children under the age of 18 who have not started using them yet - and selling them under different names to help people establish fake credit. The scheme may lead to significant debts for children that might be almost impossible to pay off. The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is warning parents to be on the lookout for the signs that point to their child's identity being compromised or stolen.
According to a 2011 report from Javelin Strategy and Research, 8.1 million American adults became victims of ID theft last year alone, resulting in the loss of $37 billion. While this number is shockingly high, NBC TODAY reports that it's harder to know how many children are actually affected by identity theft because of the fact most cases go undiscovered for years. However, one study by Debix, an identity theft monitoring company, found that out of 40,000 children, 4,000 identities had been compromised.
"This is a newer problem, and it's frightening for any parent to think that their child's identity is at risk of being stolen," said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB. "It is extremely important that people take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of their child's identity."
The BBB urges parents to follow these important steps to protect their children from identity theft:
Be aware of how to obtain your child's credit report. Getting access to your child's records is actually a different process than obtaining your own. Your child's report cannot be obtained using the congressionally-mandated free credit report website (http://AnnualCreditReport.com) when they're under the age of 13, and even sometimes for children ages 14 to 18. For parents with children under the age of 13, the easiest way to obtain your child's records is through Trans Union. According to NBC TODAY, if Trans Union says there is no report, odds are good that your child is in the clear. But if there is a report -- or you have a specific reason to believe your child is a victim - you'll want to follow up with Experian and Equifax, the nation's other two major credit bureaus, and get a report from them, too.
Recognize the signs of trouble. Watch out for red flags that indicate there might be a problem, such as your son or daughter receiving pre-approved credit card offers or calls from collection agencies.
Know what to do if you suspect that your child might be a victim. According to the FTC, every parent should check their child's credit report on their 16th birthday. It's not good to check it too often, but checking then leaves sufficient time to fix errors and activity before their child goes off to college and tries to obtain financial aid. If suspicious activity arises, parents must contact all three credit bureaus and request a report immediately. From there depending on your state's credit freeze rule, placing a credit freeze should be considered.
For more information on securing your identity, visit www.bbb.org/us/bbb-news/.