By Clark Howard
Are you worried that your child may be a victim of identity theft? 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 targets 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 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 the rest. Those are areas of weakness where many times a child’s identity can be stolen.
For years, the credit bureaus took no action when it came to the issue of minor credit freeze. So it was left to the states to lead the way with legislation that gave parents a tool to prevent identity theft from happening to their child. That resulted in nearly 20 states putting law on the books allowing a parent to freeze a child’s credit.
When a child’s identity is stolen, criminals can use their identity 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 subject to identity theft than an adult! Another recent study found that one in 10 kids has his or her identity stolen by the age of 18.
Child identity theft is one of the worst forms of identity theft 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: Equifax is going beyond what’s required by law and allowing parents to put a freeze on their child’s records in all 50 states! No word yet that either Experian or TransUnion have followed suit, but I’ll let you know when they do.
Use a credit freeze to fight back against child identity theft
So, do you know know the law in your state? Here is an updated list of states that allow a parent or guardian to freeze their child’s credit. Following Equifax’s latest move, I’m hoping this will soon be a 50-state list!
If your state doesn’t allow a child credit freeze, you have to petition hard to get that changed. Here’s a form letter to help your request credit freeze legislation for minors in your state.