The Growing Problem With Child Identity Theft

Find Out How to Protect Your Child From Identity Theft

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According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are approximately a half a million victims of child identity theft each year. Sadly, it is often parents or those who have access to a child's Social Security number.

Identity Theft and the Credit Card Industry

One of the best definitions of child identity theft comes from the Identity Theft Resource Center. In a nutshell, the theft of a child's identity is used by an adult for their personal gain. It is possible that this could be a family member or person who knows the family, or it could be a stranger who is skilled at targeting children. The victim of a child identity theft is not just a young child, many adults have been victims of child identity theft without knowing. They only find out when they try to establish credit of their own.

When a creditor receives a credit application, they often take the information at face value, and never cross check the data. Instead, they easily can end up giving a 2-year-old a credit card. Though the application may say a person is 23, the Social Security number provided might be for a 3-year-old, and if this occurs, that child will have a lifetime of struggle ahead of them when it comes to credit and finances.

Though most instances of child identity theft involve the use of a child's Social Security number, in some cases, it is also combined with the birth certificate of the child. As a parent, you like need to give your children's Social Security numbers to a number of organizations including insurers, hospitals and schools. 

How to Protect Your Child from Being a Victim of Identity Theft

There are a number of ways that you can protect your child when it comes to identity theft. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Some states offer services called a "credit freeze" that will protect children from identity theft. However, this is only possible if your child already has a credit report, which is unlikely. To find out, contact one of the three major credit bureaus, such as Equifax, TransUnion or Experian. 
  • Another thing you can do is to stop giving schools or other institutions private information about your children. This is your right as a parent thanks to the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act, or FERPA. This act gives a parent the right to authorize what personal information of their child is shared with any third party. In most cases, giving a social security number is unnecessary. 
  • Keep in mind that the FERPA does not apply to everything, and in some cases, it may not apply to extracurricular activities. As a parent, make sure that you investigate this to see if it is necessary to give this information, and if so, how much is necessary. For example, the Social Security number of your child does not have to be given to play on the football team, but other information may be necessary.
  • Consider purchasing identity theft protection through a credit bureau, such as Equifax. Not only will these services keep an eye on your own credit, they look for suspicious activity for all members of your immediate family.