It is not easy to believe that children prone to id theft. Because the biggest problems that these tots may have in life is how to learn to feed, clothe and relieve themselves without being too messy, it may never occur to a "normal," non-paranoid parent to run a credit check for their babies who have barely turned 1. But it is a sad and chilling fact that, according to ID Analytics via Huffington Post, an estimated number of 140,000 children and babies fall victim to identity theft annually, and a chilling number of 500,000 children have fallen victim to ID theft by their own parents. With these statistics, it isn't difficult to understand that there is a need to protect your family from identity theft.
There are rising cases of children prone to id theft simply because of these factors:
Children have zero credit history
Because children's credit history will not be started until they turn 18, from the time their parents can apply for their children's SSN and up to the time the children can claim and use it, this is the whole time window that an ID thief can use the child's identity for credit fraud. Because it almost makes no sense to check a child's records for identity theft, the thief can run around using the child's credentials until red flags start popping up."Never in my wildest dreams had I thought to run a credit check on my son. And what parent would run a credit check on their child who's in diapers, who's crawling?" --"Allison," via Today.com
Credit systems are not exactly strict enough
Do you know that as long as an SSN, a full name and a birth date are present, an ID thief can actually create a string of accounts and use that? There is even a kind of ID theft that doesn't even require the SSN, full name and birth date to match: "SSN-Only ID Theft" or "Synthetic ID Theft." Your child's SSN could be stolen then the activities logged under his SSN. This ID theft is even more difficult to trace, because there would be no Name/Birth date match to the SSN. This is why the records are harder to trace, more difficult to dig up, because the SSN will be linked to someone else's name. The fact that it would be hard to trace an identity theft of this kind makes it more enticing for thieves to target children's SSN's.
Child identity theft can go undetected for at least 18 years
As mentioned, a child's credit history won't start until he turns 18 and is eligible to apply for credit or student loans. Because of that, a thief can run around and shop with the child's credentials up until the victim is 18, or the system detects the thief because debt collectors stop contacting the family and the family makes moves for children protection.
Given these factors, as parents, you need to know the ways you can protect your family from id theft. It basically starts with vigilance:
As soon as you've applied for your child's SSN, request for a credit report
You may need to apply for the credit report in person. The moment you've requested for your child's credit report, checking once every 3 to 4 years is vigilant enough, according to Steven Toporoff of the FTC. When your child turns 14, you can then request for an annual credit report online up until he turns 18.
There is also a law that allows for parents to request a credit report for their children at the age of 16. This way they have two years to clear up erroneous and even fraudulent entries and have his credit history clean by the time he turns 18. To be safe, though, better start monitoring your child's credit report as soon as you have his SSN. This way, no identity theft will ever get out of hand and too insurmountable to chase down.
As soon as a debt collector calls, asking for your child, or credit card bills in your child's name appear in the mail, jump into action
It may seem like an overreaction to start requesting for credit reports and credit freeze requests on your child's credit history, but the moment you get collection notices and debt collection calls for your child, this is already an undeniable red flag for identity theft. This is why you have to jump into action, report the ID theft and manage the damages as soon as possible.
Always keep your child's birthdate out of the public eye
It is almost impossible to do so, because your child's school and medical records will require his birthdate. But wherever and whenever you can, do request that this detail be left out of public posts, as in message boards or birthday boards where a stranger can surreptitiously copy your child's details, then run off and commit identity theft with it.
There is no surefire way for children protection from identity theft. It is undeniable that the system is still too lacking in protecting people against credit and ID theft. This is why both adults and children are targets of this crime. However, there are simple measures that a parent can employ to protect family from id theft. Like we said, the bottom line truly is vigilance.