You may not worry about your child’s identity being stolen, but child identity theft statistics from CSID, a division of Experian, underline the dangers of this threat. The identity theft rate is 35 times higher for children than adults and 15 percent of victims were under 5 years old. Most of the time the fraud goes undetected until your child turns 18 and starts applying for credit cards, student loans or apartment leases. The CSID report found that credit reporting agencies don't catch 99 percent of cases of child identity theft.
Here are six ways to protect your children’s identities:
1. Safeguard your child: Reduce your family’s risk of identity theft from the start with child identity theft protection. Farm Bureau’s Identity Services and Fraud Expense Coverage includes preventive services to lock out thieves as well as monitoring services to notify you early on and resolution services to guide you through the process of getting your identity back. Policies can cover up to two family members.
2. Watch for warning signs: One of the first steps to prevention is learning how child identity theft happens and how you can identify it early. The Federal Trade Commissions (FTC) suggests looking for red flags that indicate your child might be a victim of identity theft, including notices from the IRS for unpaid taxes or collection agencies calling your children about unpaid bills (which could include medical bills). If you notice any of these warning signs, request copies of your child’s credit report. The three credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — are required to provide a free copy of the report annually through annualcreditreport.com.
3. Place an alert on their credit accounts: A credit freeze stops all access to your child’s credit report, which can prevent identity thieves from fraudulently applying for loans or credit cards. Contact each of the credit bureaus to place a freeze; some states charge a small fee for the transaction. You’ll need to remove the freeze before your child can apply for credit.
4. Protect sensitive information: Before filling out your child’s Social Security number on forms at the school or doctor’s office, ask why the information is needed and how it will be protected. You might be able to leave it blank or use an alternate ID number. Store their Social Security cards and all records with their personal information — including name, address and date of birth — in a secure location such as a safe deposit box. Shred documents with personally identifying information before throwing them away.
5. Be cautious with digital devices: When your child uses a free Wi-Fi connection to Snapchat with friends or post updates on social media, all of the information stored on those devices is vulnerable. Installing anti-virus, anti-phishing and anti-spyware protection can help. Encourage your child to steer clear of public Wi-Fi connections and to use the 4G or LTE coverage offered by your carrier instead.
6. Repair damage: If you believe your child is a victim, file a child identity theft inquiry form with the credit reporting bureaus to make sure. Then file a report with the FTC and ask for resources for recovering the stolen identity and repairing the credit damage. Ask the credit reporting agencies to remove all account inquiries and credit notices associated with your child’s Social Security number. You should also contact all of the businesses where your child’s information was used, asking them to close fraudulent accounts. If you have identity theft protection, your Farm Bureau fraud specialist can help you resolve the situation.
As a growing number of children become victims of identity theft, it’s essential to take precautions to protect your children and ensure they reach adulthood with their credit and identities intact. Contact your Farm Bureau agent to discuss Identity Theft protection for you and your children, and ensure you are covered.