Crime Watch

Crime Watch: Monitor your kids’ credit reports to catch fraud early

 

Special to The Miami Herald

Several of you have emailed me with some horrific stories regarding your child having their Social Security number taken by identity thieves. The crooks then open up credit card accounts, which they don’t pay, thereby trashing the youngster’s credit score.

Therefore I am going to share the information again with you.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, child identity theft is a growing problem.

As we all know, parents apply for a Social Security number after a baby is born because nowadays you need it for filing your income tax. Well, criminals are making good use of those numbers. Children are the new target for identity thieves. They make a great target because it can be years before it will be detected, when the victim finally gets old enough to apply for credit.

This is a huge issue, and we need to start with checking to make sure that our children’s Social Security numbers have not been stolen. Parents really need to start taking action now, even if you just have a newborn. Identity theft could affect your child’s future credit and employment history if the thieves (who sometimes turn out to be family members according to the TransUnion credit agency) obtain credit accounts or event get jobs with your child’s identity.

How do you know if your child’s identity has been stolen? This is where you need to start paying attention:

First, you need to check with the Social Security Administration once a year to make sure no one is using your child’s number. Secondly, you need to check your child’s credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 877-322-8228. By law you are entitled to free report once a year from each of the three major credit -reporting companies.

Third, if your child starts getting suspicious mail, like pre-approved credit cards and other financial offers normally sent only to adults, pay attention.

Not to fret if you get started now and work with the different credit agencies, because many of them have programs to flag your child’s information, just visit their sites or email me and I will send you the information.

Now here is something you can help with by asking your legislators to do what Maryland did by passing a Child Identity Lock bill that allows parents to take step of freezing their child’s credit at any time. The legislative session starts this week in Tallahassee, so make those calls.

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to carmen@citizenscrimewatch.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.

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