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Protecting your child from identity theft

You work hard to keep your child safe, steering them away from dangerous situations and guiding them

towards safe habits. But have you ever thought about how to keep your child safe from identity theft?

What is child identity theft?

Child identity theft occurs when a thief uses a child's personal information—usually a Social Security Number—is used to open accounts or do other dishonest things. Since birthdates are not linked with Social Security numbers, it's easy to use this information. Nearly one out of every 50 kids was a victim of identity theft in 2021, according to a recent report from Javelin Strategy & Research

 On average, this cost each family more than $1,100, in addition to the work of undoing any negative impacts on their child.

Unfortunately, thieves target children because they know it'll be a long time before the child grows up and applies for credit. Indeed, that's exactly how many young adults find out that they've had their identity stolen for years.

How to Protect Your Child Against Identity Theft

The idea of someone stealing your child's identity is rightfully scary, but rest assured that there are many ways you can guard against it. Here's how:

1. Freeze your child's credit.

One of the best things you can do for your child is to freeze their credit. This will create a new credit profile in their name (instead of a thief’s) and lock people from viewing it until your child is ready to apply for credit. Since lenders don't give access to credit without viewing a credit report, this will prevent many forms of identity theft from ever happening in the first place.

To do this, you'll need to go through the credit freeze process individually with each of the three credit bureaus:

You'll receive a PIN code or password that you can use to unlock your child's credit when they're ready. Keep this in a safe place you'll be able to access years down the road.

2. Get an official government-issued ID for your child.

Identity thieves often use a child's Social Security Number to apply for government-issued IDs, such as driver's licenses or passports.

But just like how you can nip identity theft in the bud by first creating your child's credit report, you can do the same with their government-issued ID. Your child can't yet drive, of course, but they are eligible for a state-issued ID card and a U.S. passport.

3. Be on the lookout for signs of ID theft.

You can't always prevent child ID theft, but you can be on the lookout so if it does happen, you can take steps to stop it before it gets worse.

Here are some things to keep an eye out for:

  • Pre-approved credit card offers
  • Notices from collection agencies or courts
  • IRS notices that your child has already been claimed on another tax return
  • Denials for government assistance or medical insurance for your child because these benefits have already been claimed

If you do spot any of these things, you can learn what steps to take on

4. Teach your child about safe information habits.

When you take steps to protect your own identity, that's the perfect time to teach your child about it as well.

Teach them about why you need to be careful online and  what you share on social media and how to spot suspicious-looking links or websites. Show them how password managers are not only helpful but safer to use as well.

You can't protect your children from everything, but taking proactive steps now to protect their identity will go far in avoiding the troubles that can come with identity theft.

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