How Can I Protect My Family From Child Identity Theft?
Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to reduce the chance that your family falls prey to child identity theft. Here's what you should keep in mind:
- Don't give out your child's Social Security number. In most situations, you aren't obliged to share this information. While a school can ask for your child's Social Security number, you are not required to give the school this information2 in order to enroll them. Healthcare providers often ask for your child's Social Security number, but again, in most cases, you're not required to give it. This Consumer Reports article3 explains your rights, and how to handle different situations.
- Shred documents with personal information before putting them in the recycling.
- Store all documents with personal information (such as birth certificates and cards with your child's Social Security number) in a safe place. Never store them in your car, on your desk, or on photos on your phone.
- Remind your child to never share personal information like their address and birthdate with someone they've met online.
- And same goes for you — never give out personal or financial information if you haven't initiated the contact. No reputable financial institution — including Synovus — will ever call, email, or text you to ask for your personal information.
- Freeze your child's credit by contacting all three of the major credit bureaus—Equifax4, Experian5, and TransUnion.6 This will limit access by scammers because no one can seek credit from an account that has been frozen (including you.) Freezing your child's credit is free and won't affect their (or your) credit. You can lift it whenever you need to by following each credit bureau's instructions online.
- You also can check with each of the bureaus to see if your child has a credit report. Normally they aren't kept for children under the age of 16, so the fact that they have one means that you may need to do some damage control. Here are links for requesting that information from each credit reporting agency: Equifax,7 Experian,8 and TransUnion.9 If they do have a credit report, the agency will tell you what to do next.
What If My Child Has Already Become A Victim Of Child Identity Theft?
Even with vigilance, it's still possible that your child's identity can be compromised. By acting fast, you can limit the damage and prevent future breaches. Here's what to do:
- Contact the company where the fraud occurred and ask them to close the account. Get written confirmation that they've closed the account and you're not responsible for the charges.
- Check to see if any of the three credit bureaus have a credit report for your child. If they do, follow their directions for requesting that they remove the fraudulent accounts. Get written confirmation when it's complete.
- Freeze your child's credit if you haven't done so to limit future fraudulent activity.
- Continue to monitor your child's credit carefully, challenging any future issues as they arise.
- Report the child identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission at IdentityTheft.gov.10
With fraud and scams on the rise, families need to do all they can to proactively protect their financial information — and their child's.