You may not worry about your kid’s identity being stolen, but child identity theft is a scary reality. In fact, the identity theft rate is 35 times higher for children than it is for adults, and 15 percent of victims are under the age of 5. Most of the time the fraud goes undetected until your child turns 18 and starts applying for credit cards, student loans or apartment leases. These six tips can help you protect your child from falling victim to a stolen identity.
1. Get Fraud Protection for Your Kids
Reduce your family’s risk of identity theft from the start with child identity theft protection. Farm Bureau offers Identity Services and Fraud Expense Coverage that includes preventive services to lock out thieves, notifies you if something seems amiss and provides resolution services to guide you through the process of recovering from a stolen identity. Policies can cover up to two family members. Consider getting identity theft insurance to minimize your risk in this area.
2. Watch for Warning Signs of Child Identity Theft
One of the first steps to prevention is learning how child identity theft happens and how you can detect 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 free copies of credit reports annually through annualcreditreport.com.
3. Place a Credit Freeze on Your Child’s 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, and know that some states charge a small fee for doing so. Before taking this step, understand how a credit freeze might affect your child later. You’ll need to remove the freeze before your child can apply for credit.
4. Protect Personal Information
Before filling out your child’s Social Security number on forms at school or the doctor’s office, ask why it is needed and how it will be protected. You might be able to leave it blank or use an alternate ID number. Store your child’s Social Security card 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 numbers and information before throwing them away.
5. Exercise Caution Online
The prevalence of digital transactions today leaves many exposed to the threat of stolen identities. When your child uses a free Wi-Fi connection to Snapchat with friends or post updates on social media, all the info stored on their device is vulnerable. Installing anti-virus, anti-phishing and anti-spyware protection can help prevent child identity theft. 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. React Quickly
If you believe your child is a victim, file a child identity theft inquiry form with the credit reporting bureaus. 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, and ask them to close fraudulent accounts. If you have identity theft protection, your Farm Bureau fraud professional 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 intact. Contact your Farm Bureau agent to discuss Identity Theft protection for you and your children.