As children head back to school, Hawai‘i’s Better Business Bureau is reminding parents to make sure they are doing all they can do protect their children’s identity.
Despite the focus on adult identity theft, children actually have a 51% higher identity theft rate than adults. On average, a case of child identity theft will result in approximately $12,779 of debt.
Children may not have bank accounts or credit cards that can be compromised in identity theft, but their personal information can be used to create a synthetic identity. An estimated 80% of identities stolen are used in this way.
When it comes to a child’s identity, a criminal can take the child’s social security number and apply that to a fake name and an adult’s birthday and address to create a new identity.
Parents can protect a child’s identity by doing the following:
Limiting the use of a child’s social security number. When signing a child up for after school activities or services, such as a library card, they may ask for a child’s social security number. Parents should not be afraid to ask how the information will be used, who will have access to it, and how it will be protected. They should always ask if there are any other forms of identification that can be used.
Staying alert. If a parent starts to receive suspicious things in the mail pertaining to their child, such as credit card offers, they need to investigate. Receiving things like this are red flags that a child’s identity has already been compromised. If a parent believes this may be the case or simply suspect something is wrong, they should contact the credit reporting agencies to see if a credit report exists for their child.
Checking a child’s credit report at age 16. The FTC recommends that parents begin checking their child’s credit report when they are about 16 years old. At this age there is still enough time to correct any errors that may appear, if their identity has been misused, before they need to apply for school loans or purchase large items like a car or apartment.
If a child’s identity has been stolen parents need contact each credit reporting company and report the errors as well as each business where the child’s identity was used. Parents also need to place a fraud alert on their child’s credit report to stop anyone else from misusing the information. Depending on the type of fraud, committed parents may have to also file a police report.