Identity theft is a massive industry, a constant threat to financial well-being, and a nightmare for victims. But, imagine if it were your child? Worse yet, imagine if it went undetected for years, never knowing until your child reached the point of unsustainable debt before the age of eighteen? Without being proactive, there’s no way of knowing that your child’s identity has been hijacked by a thief. Roughly one million children had their identity stolen in 2018, a mirror of the same statistics from 2017. With technology and methods of identity theft becoming more complex and elusive, it is more important than ever to protect your child’s identity and financial security. There are several ways to do this, whether you suspect illicit activity or the theft has already occurred, and there are many ways to detect malicious activity as well. If you receive mail from credit card companies, debt obligations, or pre-approved offers in your child’s name, it is reasonable to suspect something is wrong, and immediate action is the best step.
- Request Credit Reports From All Three National Agencies
- Place a Fraud Alert and File a Report With FTC
- Close All Fraudulent Accounts and Freeze Your Child’s Credit
- Create An Identity Theft Report
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1. Request Credit Reports From All Three National Agencies
Unless your child has reached thirteen, it is unlikely that the three credit bureaus will have an active file on them. From the age of thirteen and up, you can file for a free report from all three credit agencies through www.annualcreditreport.com. If your child is under thirteen, you will have to file with each agency independently. For Equifax, you’ll have to gather all of your child’s information — such as social security number and birth certificate —and file the info with an explanation form to the Minor Child Department. Experian is more simple. On their website, you can utilize their Child ID Scan service free of charge. Transunion provides email service and an online form. It can be frustrating having to deal with each one in turn, but necessary to get the important information needed for your child’s security.
2. Place a Fraud Alert and File a Report With FTC
It’s important to act quickly and contact one or all of the three credit report agencies and file a ninety-day fraud alert on behalf of your child. This will ensure that your child is appropriately shielded from any additional attempts to open a line of credit. You can also file a fraud alert online with any of the three. Once filed, all three will be alerted and future activity ceased and scrutinized. In addition, file an affidavit with the Federal Trade Commission. Provide as much information as possible. Vague contentions and a lack of crucial info will only delay or halt any progress in catching the thief. The FTC also recommends filing the same report with your local law enforcement agency. All of this information is compiled and used to gather Intel
on criminal activity against your child and any others who might be victims of the same identity thief. You can file a seven-year fraud alert on your child’s account, guaranteeing that any attempts at opening a new line of credit have to come through you.
3. Close All Fraudulent Accounts and Freeze Your Child’s Credit
Once your fraud alert is instigated, and you’ve filed an affidavit with the FTC, it’s necessary to dispute each account opened in your child’s name. Call all three credit agencies and speak with a representative in one of their fraud departments. Don’t end your dispute there. File three letters with each agency, contesting each fraudulent account. For your own and your child’s protection, it’s best to send these letters certified and with a return receipt. In this way, there’s no dispute as to whether the letters were received and that you sent them. Freezing your child’s credit is another free option offered by all the agencies. Call each one and provide your child’s social security number, birth certificate, address, and name. There is no detrimental effect on freezing credit. This step simply blocks future attempts for identity thieves to open lines of credit. You’ll be given a PIN to keep for when you are ready to lift the freeze, so keep it handy.
4. Create An Identity Theft Report
An additional option that you should consider, is creating an identity theft report through www.identitytheft.gov. The website is easy to navigate, narrows down your specific situation, and guides you through the process of filing your report. The FTC recommends filing a report through identitytheft.gov to get the investigation started and to officially document a declaration of innocence on your child’s behalf. It goes without saying that most wouldn’t consider their child as guilty in any way. However, it’s important to have it documented to cover yourself and your child against any future suspicion. Though the FTC recommends filing this report, rather than contacting local law enforcement, it’s better to take the extra step of filing a police report as well. The more documentation of actions you have in your hands, the better off your child will be.
Identity theft is an ever-growing racket that has cost unsuspecting and unprotected people billions in revenue, personal finances, intellectual property, and physical property. According to the Department of Justice, identity theft has affected nearly eighteen-million people in the US, with the average individual losing more than thirteen-hundred dollars. As an adult, the chaos, sudden financial instability, and stress are cruel reminders that everything can suddenly turn into a nightmare overnight. Entire families are affected. When it’s your child, the damage can go on for years, with no knowledge, whatsoever until it’s too late. It’s important to understand the steps necessary to protect your child’s financial future. The process — much like that for an adult — is tedious and seemingly complicated. However, without properly freezing accounts, placing fraud alerts, contacting the FTC, law enforcement, and filing all of the appropriate paperwork, your child will remain unprotected, and the immediate damage can spread and thrive over time. When it comes to identity theft, your child’s future is not in their own hands. Be proactive and vigilant, so your child can enter adulthood with a clean financial slate.