One of the reasons that identity theft is now the fastest growing crime in the United States is simply this; it’s a very difficult problem to solve.
Even worse is the fact that, like monkeys, identity thieves go for the “lowest hanging” fruit first. In other words, they target our children because they are the easiest. Why? Because the Social Security number of a child or adolescent has never been used for either a job or to get credit. In other words, it’s pristine, and an excellent starting point for identity thieves.
If you suspect that your child’s Social Security number has been compromised, below are a number of steps that you can take to prevent further damage from being done. Enjoy.
If your child is suddenly receiving credit card offers in the mail, even though they still have Sesame Street pajamas, that’s a sign that there was a compromise with their Social Security number somewhere. If that happens you should request a credit report and, if a credit file turns up, this is a definite red flag for illegal activity because they shouldn’t have one yet. If that does happen, you’ll need to work with the credit bureaus to clean up the mess, and do it as fast as you can.
You can also request a “credit freeze” on your child’s line of credit if they have one. They shouldn’t actually but, if you want to be proactive, you can actually pay for a credit bureau to set one up and then freeze it. This is usually rather inexpensive and its an extremely effective way to make sure that credit thieves are unable to open a new credit line using your child’s name and/or social security number.
Another excellent way to prevent identity theft is also to talk with your children, when they are old enough of course, and let them know how dangerous it is to share their personal information with anyone, especially through social media. For example, posting their new drivers license online is definitely a bad idea, as well as giving their Social Security number to anyone who requests it without explanation.
You can also hire a credit monitoring service for approximately $20 a month which, in many cases, is much cheaper than the cost of trying to get an identity theft mess cleaned up.
In the end it’s really all about being proactive, paying attention to any “red flags” that might be out there and teaching your children how to be fiscally responsible. Identity thieves will always be around but, if you and your child, when they’re old enough, know how to spot them, you can prevent a lot of damage from being done.