Clark Howard, Clark.com
Are you worried that your child may be a victim of identity theft due to the Equifax data breach? Here’s a real red flag: If your child is getting mail in their name for pre-approved credit cards and airline or hotel loyalty program offers, that’s a tip-off someone is impersonating them. In that case, you’ve got to check with the credit bureaus and see what’s going on.
‘Synthetic’ identity theft is the new rage
Criminals target kids because they’re clean slates with clean Social Security numbers. Experts right now are seeing a lot of what’s called ‘synthetic’ identity theft, where a criminal uses a child’s Social Security numbers combined with a different date of birth, name and address. That allows them to fake that they’re an adult with that Social Security number to create a new identity for themselves.
Parents need to be particularly careful about broadcasting a kid’s Social Security number on school forms, athletic events, school registrations and doctor’s offices. Those are areas of weakness where a child’s identity can be stolen.
For years, the credit bureaus took no action when it came to freezing a minor’s credit. So it was left to the states to come up with legislation that gave parents tools to prevent identity theft from happening to their child. Over 20 states passed laws allowing a parent to freeze a child’s credit.
When a child’s identity is stolen, criminals can use their information to buy homes, open new lines of credit, commit grand theft auto and qualify for medical and government benefits.
According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, kids are 51 times more likely to be the subject of identity theft than adults! Another study found that one in 10 kids has his or her identity stolen by the age of 18.
Read more: Clark’s Credit Freeze Guide
Child identity theft is one of the worst forms of fraud because it often goes unchecked and unnoticed for years. Then, when your kid goes off to college, suddenly he or she can’t get loans or qualify under FAFSA because supposedly they’re 37 years old and defaulted on a mortgage!
But here’s the good news: Experian and Equifax allow credit freezes for children in all 50 states! TransUnion only allows credit freezes for minors in states that explicitly allow it by law. TransUnion gives details on their ability to complete a credit freeze for a minor on their website.
Use a credit freeze to fight back against child identity theft
So, do you know know the law in your state? Here is a list of states that allow a parent or guardian to freeze their child’s credit as of 2016.
- Info on freezing a child’s credit with TransUnion can be found here.
- Info on freezing a child’s credit with Equifax can be found here.
- Info on freezing a child’s credit with Experian can be found here.
Find more info on the Equifax data breach, here.
For more info about protecting yourself, see our Protect Your Rights & Identity section!