How Scammers Use your Child’s Information for Fraud
The most important thing when it comes to keeping your child safe from scammers, is prevention. Scammers unlawfully gain access to people’s information for financial gain, leaving their victims with a bad credit history and outstanding payments. It is usually harder to detect if a scammer has committed identity theft when it involves children, as it can go unnoticed for years until the child turns 18. It’s important to bear in mind that your child’s personal information is protected by law, and it is your right and your duty to report any infringement or potential scams.
Different ways scammers can use your child’s information
Scammers create what is known as a synthetic identity, by combining a Social Security number with a different date of birth. Scammers can use your child’s Social Security number to open bank and credit card accounts in their name, apply for government benefits, loans or utility service, or rent out places. If you think your child’s Social Security number has been compromised, read on for what to do.
Warning signs and what to look out for
There are a number of warning signs that your child has been a victim of identity theft. Warning signs to be aware of include:
- Getting a notice from the IRS that your child hasn’t paid income taxes or that their Social Security number was used on another tax return.
- You or your child being denied government benefits as they are being paid into a someone else’s account using your child’s Social Security number.
- Getting collection calls or bills for products and services you didn’t order or receive.
- Getting emails pertaining to products and services you or your child never signed up for.
If any of the above applies to your or your child and you think your child’s information has been compromised, find out if your child has a credit report. This can be done by:
- Contacting one of the 3 nationwide credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion).
- Ask for a manual search of your child’s file.
- Update your files by recording the dates you made calls or sent letters, and keep copies.
Bear in mind that these companies may require copies of:
- Your child’s birth certificate listing their parents
- Your child’s Social Security card
- Proof of your child’s legal guardian, whether it be a parent or guardian’s government-issued identification card, like a driver’s license. You may be required to fill in a Uniform Minor’s Status Declaration.
- Proof of address, like a utility bill, or a credit card or insurance statement
The companies will check for files relating to your child’s name, their Social Security number and anything that correlates with it.
What to do if your child is a victim of identity theft
- If the credit reporting companies confirm that someone has used your child’s Social Security card, you will need to request that each company remove all accounts, account inquiries, and collection notices from any file that is associated with your child’s name and their Social Security number.
- Contact every business where your child’s information was misused and request that each business put a credit freeze on the fraudulent account and have it closed and flagged so that it reflects that it was identity theft.
- Place a fraud alert on your child’s credit report.
- File a fraud report with the FTC online or call 877-438-4338. If the identity theft relates to medical services or taxes you will have to fill in a police report too.
How to prevent people from stealing your child’s information
Keep your child’s information in a safe place at all times. Do not keep your child’s Social Security number in vulnerable places that could get broken into or stolen (like wallets, cell phones, computers).
Do not share your child’s Social Security number unless you trust the other party and why it’s being used. If possible, use another identifier to minimize risk.
School forms and doctors require personal information. Make sure that the information is kept safe, and report any misuse you might suspect or possible scams.
Check if your child has a credit report prior to them turning 16 years old. This gives you time to straighten everything out if has been compromised by scammers prior to your child applying for loans, jobs or paying ¬rent. Educate your child on the importance of privacy, especially on social media. Teach them to protect their Social Security number and other sensitive information.