The last couple of weeks I have received emails and information regard the theft of Social Security numbers that belong to children.
It is estimated that as many as 3.5 million kids have been affected by this type of identity theft, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Parents, as most know, apply for a Social Security number after a baby is born because you need it for filing your income tax.
Well, our criminals are making good use of those numbers. Children are the new surprising target for identity thieves. They make a great target because it can be years before it will be detected, which will create serious consequences down the road when that child becomes of age.
Readers, this is a huge issue. First, you need to make sure your child’s Social Security number has not been stolen. Parents, you 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 obtain credit accounts or get jobs with your child’s identity.
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How do you know if your child’s identity has been stolen?
First, you need to check with the Social Security Administration once a year to make sure no one is using your child’s SSN. Secondly, you need to check your child’s credit report (free – Equifax -1-800-525-6285; Experian-1-888-397-3742; TransUnion-1-800-680-7289.) You can also report fraud to them. By law you are entitled to once a year free report. Therefore, divide the calls into several times during the year. Third, if your child starts getting pre-approved credit cards and other financial offers normally sent to adults, pay attention.
Other ways you will find out: If you try to open an account for your child and it already exists, or if you apply for financial assistance because he/she is going to college and you are turned down because of a poor credit rating in their name, again that is a big red flag for you to check. Of course when your child is of age and is ready to purchase that long waited car, well he/she will find out if someone stole their identity years before.
Tips to use:
Keep all documents that show a child’s personal information safely locked up. What is personal? At a minimum, it includes a child’s date of birth, Social Security number and birth certificate. DON’T carry your child’s Social Security card with you.
Share your child’s Social Security number only when you know and trust the other party. Ask why they want it, how they will safeguard it and how long they will keep it and how they will dispose of it. If you are not satisfied with the answers, don’t share the number and ask them to use another identifier. For more information visit: www.ftc.gov/idtheft
In closing, Happy Mothers’ day to all the Moms today.
Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.