protect your childIdentity theft is an enduring aspect of modern life affecting everyone, even children. That’s why it’s important to know how to spot and potentially prevent instances of identity theft committed against your child. To help you out, we’re detailing some of the ways you can recognize attempts of child identity theft. Continue reading to learn the signs of child identity theft and how you can catch identity theft, report it and protect your child’s identity.

What are the signs of child identity theft?

There are a few fairly obvious signs that your child’s identity is being abused. Keep in mind, though, that child identity theft doesn’t necessarily constitute financial identity theft (one of the most common and damaging forms of identity theft), but regardless of the type of identity theft, parents or guardians should be alarmed and take action.

Active and detailed credit reports in your child’s name

This can be a telltale sign that something is wrong. While it is possible for a child to have a credit report – for example, by being an authorized user or a joint account holder on an account with their parent/guardian – it’s not common for a child to have an extensive credit report before they open their own accounts after they’re 18. Unfortunately, the credit bureaus won’t alert you if your child’s credit file is active, which means you’ll have to request copies of the credit reports from the three major bureaus. Once you have a copy of the reports, comb through them to spot inaccurate information, like someone else’s name, or unfamiliar accounts, as both are signs that someone is committing fraud with your child’s name or personal information.

Mail addressed to your child

Even in today’s digital world, mail is the primary means of communication for most organizations and companies. That’s why, in some cases, when an identity thief assumes your child’s name, mail related to their nefarious activities might be sent to your house. For example, a jury summons might indicate that someone is driving under your child’s name. Mail regarding past due accounts, insurance claims, financial statements and similar sensitive information would reveal other forms of identity theft. While any competent identity thief would probably forward this information to themselves – and not to their victim – it’s still possible to catch some identity thieves this way.

Your child has detailed public records

Through the Freedom of Information Act, information that the government has collected and maintained became available. This can include things like civil judgments, which might also appear on a credit report, as well as criminal records, property tax records and much more. Of course, your child shouldn’t have documents pertaining to any of these, but if an identity thief is misusing your child’s identity, you might discover it by monitoring public records for mentions of your child’s name. You can do this through identity theft protection services or by periodically checking people search services or visiting local court houses or county clerk offices, where you can gather physical copies of such records.

What can you do if you see signs of child identity theft?

Child identity theft is no joke, and like all other types of identity theft, the sooner child identity theft is addressed, the better it is for the victim. Here’s what you should do:

File an identity theft report

When you see an instance of identity theft committed against your child, in most cases, one of the first things you should do is to file a report with the police. This is especially true in cases where identity thieves might be using your child’s identity to commit crimes or engage in other types of prosecutable fraud. Additionally, identitytheft.gov, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and the Identity Theft Resource Center can provide support and advice for dealing with child identity theft.

Contact the appropriate parties to correct misinformation

In addition to filing an identity theft report and/or contacting government agencies and consumer watchdogs about your child’s situation, correcting misinformation created by identity thieves is paramount. You can do this by contacting the organizations and groups that address your child by name in correspondence and explain that your child’s identity is being abused. If the theft is on their credit reports, you’ll need to contact the three major credit bureaus to get it removed.

How to protect your child from child identity theft

Addressing child identity theft is important, but being proactive and reducing its likelihood of happening is even better. Luckily, there are several ways to do this:

Be selective about giving out your child’s SSN

Requests for your child’s social security number will likely appear on a myriad of intake forms, from their doctor’s offices to school, but before offering it, you should be critical about who you’re providing that information to, how it’ll be used, why they need it and how securely it’ll be stored. Don’t be afraid to opt out of providing your child’s social security number or ask why someone needs it before providing it.

Teach your child the importance of Internet privacy

Online oversharing is also one potential way identity thieves can gather their victims’ information. That’s why it’s critical that you teach your child the importance of responsible online behavior that protects their privacy. The same advice that applies to adults, like closing out unused online accounts, still apply to kids. However, the first step is for parents to simply be aware of what their kids are doing online and to monitor their child’s Internet use. By being engaged in this way, parents can prevent children from visiting dangerous sites and oversharing information online.

Freeze your child’s credit

Preemptively freezing your child’s credit is also something you should consider, especially since credit freezes are now free for everyone, including for all children and dependents under 16 years old. Although freezing doesn’t stop every type of identity theft, for critical ones – like financial identity theft – it’s essential. That’s why you should consider credit freezes as one of the tools in your arsenal to fight child identity theft.

What if you discover child identity theft later on?

One of the most insidious aspects of child identity theft is that many of its victims don’t realize what happened until they’re legal adults and go to open an account in their name only to be denied. Familiar fraud, also known as identity theft committed by someone you know, such as a parent or caregiver, can make navigating this type of thing even more tricky than if the perpetrator is a stranger. Fortunately, there are options for young adults who discover childhood identity theft after the fact, and you can read about them here.

Unfortunately, children are not less likely to be victims of data breaches and fraud than adults, which is why it’s important to monitor for signs of identity theft and take action immediately if it’s spotted. For more information about how to keep you and your family safe, keep reading our identity theft protection blog.