Maybe you’re doing all the right things to protect yourself from becoming an identity theft victim, but what about your kids? They probably have Social Security numbers, too. Well, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), has just released a resource guide to help parents avoid, recognize, and repair the damage caused by child identity theft.
Child identity theft is the use of a minor’s personal information to commit fraud. According to the FTC’s guide, Safeguarding Your Child’s Future, thieves might use a child’s personal information to get a job, government benefits, medical care, utilities, car loans, or even a mortgage. “Avoiding, discovering, and undoing the damage resulting from the theft of a child’s identity can be a challenge,” notes the FTC.
Much of that challenge comes from the fact that since parents rarely request and review their kid’s credit report, a thief can use the child’s information for many years before the crime is discovered. The child victim often learns – the hard way — about the theft years later, when applying for a loan, credit, an apartment, or a job.
Just as it is for adults, the weak link in protecting children from identity theft is their Social Security number.
“Share your child’s Social Security number only when you know and trust the other party,” advises Safeguarding Your Child’s Future. “If someone asks for your child’s Social Security number, ask why they want it, how they’ll safeguard it, how long they’ll keep it, and how they’ll dispose of it. If you’re not satisfied with the answers, don’t share the number. Ask to use another identifier.”
Also See: The Federal Tax ID Identity Theft Scheme
While most of the child identity theft protection strategies are the same those for adults, the FTC specifically suggests that parents become aware of their rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to protect their children’s personal information at school. The law protects the privacy of student education records, and gives parents the right to opt out of the release of school directory information to third parties.
How Do You Know? Along with advice on protecting against and recovering from child identity theft, Safeguarding Your Child’s Future offers tips on how parents can tell if their children’s personal information has been stolen.
For example, calls from collection agencies and credit card companies about accounts in your child’s name, or a letter from the IRS or Social Security asking to verify that your child is employed even though your child has never had a job.
One common crime committed by child identity thieves is to fraudulently list their victims as dependents on their own income tax return. If you file a tax return listing your dependent child’s name and Social Security number and you later get a notice from the IRS that the same information is listed on another person’s tax return, you child may be a victim of child identity theft.
Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
Identity Theft Prevention and Recovery Resources
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