Community Voices

Crime Watch: Protecting your child from identity theft

Several of you have emailed me with some stories regarding your children having their social security taken and now they have a credit problem before even becoming adults. Therefore, I am going to share the information again with you.

It is estimated that as much as 3.5 million kids have been affected by this type of identity theft, according to the Federal Trade Commission. 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, 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 then create serious consequences down the road when that child becomes of age.

This is a huge issue and we need to start with checking to make sure that our children’s Social Security number has not been stolen. Parents really need to start now taking action 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 TransUnion credit) obtain credit accounts or even 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 SSN. Second, 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 suspicious mail, like preapproved credit cards and other financial offers normally sent to adults, in their name, pay attention. Other ways you will find out is if you try to open an account for your child for his future, and it already exists, or if you apply for financial assistance because he/she is going to college soon 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, he/she will also find out then if someone stole their identity years before.

Do 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.

In closing, this is Memorial Day weekend. Please make sure that you and those around you wear their seat belts when traveling since this is one of those weekends when lots of accidents happen. Remember it’s the law. Let’s also remember those who gave their life for us to be a free nation.

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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