Child identity theft is when someone steals or uses a minor’s identifying information as their own. They might use it for financial gain, in which case they’ve obtained a minor’s social security number and use it to get credit. They might also use it to help them get a driver’s license. There have also been instances when people have obtained a minor’s identity and sold it to illegal immigrants or people who want to change their identity to avoid arrest or some other negative consequence.
In more than half of the cases, a relative or close family friend is the identity thief in child identity theft cases, but it’s not always someone who knows the child. As a parent you must be diligent in protecting your child’s information. Never put your child’s social security number on non-essential forms such as sports registrations and always shred any documents that have account numbers and social security numbers. Another thing you can do is check your child’s credit report once a year to make sure there is no strange activity taking place.
People who want to begin using someone else’s identity turn to children as prime targets of identity theft for two main reasons: One, they often have spotless records so people are able to use the information to gain credit. Two, identity thieves are often not detected for years because most children don’t have any reason to check their credit reports. The Identity Theft Resource Center reports that only 4% of reported identity theft cases are for people under the age of 18, but they also explain the number is probably much higher because many cases have yet to be detected.
Your teenagers might be sorely disappointed when they head into the DMV to get their driver’s license or learner’s permit and are told that they cannot get one because there is already a driver’s license issued to their social security number. Even worse, your child might not find out about a theft of his or her identity until he or she is a young adult and trying to apply for a loan. Probably the worst case scenario would be when the police show up at your door with an arrest warrant in your child’s name because someone committed a crime using your child’s name. While this is a very extreme case, if someone uses your child’s identity for financial gain, at the very minimum, be prepared to spend years working to clear his or her record of the stains left by the thief.
There are some signs that might tip you off that your child may be the victim of identity theft before it comes to that, however. (If you experience any of these signs, it’s very important to have your child’s credit checked to see if there is any unlawful activity and to report any known incidences to the police.)
- Your child begins receiving pre-approved credit card offers or bank statements in the mail.
- Your child begins getting calls from telemarketers that directly ask for them.
- Your child is denied the right to a driver’s license because someone already has one under his or her social security number.
Identity Theft and the Internet: What You Need to Know to Protect Your Credit
Your identity is unique to you: it’s your name, address, social security number, financial status, credit history, mother’s maiden name and credit card numbers. It’s all you have to identify who you are other than your fingerprints. The problem is, identity can be stolen and with the wide usage of the internet, it’s becoming easier and easier to gain other people’s supposedly private information.
If you become a victim of identity theft, there are many consequences. You’ll literally spend years clearing your records (possibly credit and criminal). You’ll probably be denied credit and might even be denied jobs. You could also even be arrested for crimes you didn’t commit.
People who want someone else’s information have several ways to gain it. They can steal information from records where they work or they can look over your shoulder at the checkout line and memorize the information on your check or the numbers on your credit card. Some criminals are starting to go more high tech. They can use devices called skimmers to gain credit card numbers when the information is being transferred to the company. They also often use the internet to scam unsuspecting people into giving them private information.
Phishing is the term used to describe the act that some criminals use to gain account information from people. What they do is send emails posing as respected and established websites that often deal with money (such as eBay) asking for information. They are generally worded to get the people worried that there might be illegal activity on their account and then they ask them to follow a link and enter their personal information including account name and password. The link brings them to a site that mimics the original site (which is actually quite easy to do). When the people enter their personal information, the thieves then use it to go into the accounts and change the password so that the owner is no longer able to access their own account. The criminals then use the account to transfer money from bank accounts (if they are linked to them) or use the credit card information that people have stored there.
You can protect yourself from internet identity theft in the following ways:
- If you think you’ve received a phishing email, do not click on any links given in the email. Instead, open a new browser, type in the address to the website in question and find contact information to call or email them about the email. Remember, they already have your information and will not need you to provide it back to them.
- Be sure to use an anti-virus program as well as a firewall to protect your computer from damaging files and spyware that can track your internet movements.
Five Tips to Help You Prevent Identity Theft (for you and your family)
- Limit access to your family’s social security numbers by never providing it on non-essential forms and by finding out why people are asking for it. If they want it for identifying purposes, simply request that they assign your or your family member a different identifying number.
- Always shred any papers that have social security and account numbers.
- Never give out your personal information over the phone or internet.
- Protect your credit card numbers and checks when shopping so that people are not able to see them and memorize the information while waiting in line behind you.
- Teach your children to not give out personal identifying information to anyone, especially over the internet.
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