ID verification is vital for younger people

Identity theft is a serious problem for adults, but criminals are also increasingly targeting children and teenagers. The biggest issue with child ID theft is it usually goes undetected until the person becomes 18 and begins to apply for their own credit or college loans. When they do, they find out they have a bad credit standing because someone has been creating debt using their information.

Why do ID thieves target children?

Thieves prefer to target the identities of children and teens because they have a “clean slate.” They steal their Social Security number and then use fake information to make a complete “clean” profile. Once set up, they use the SSN to apply for credit and loans they never intend to repay or find other nefarious ways to use the identity. Since most people aren’t routinely checking a child’s credit standing, the fraud often goes undetected for years.

How to help protect your teens protect their credit standing

To help protect your child’s identity and their credit standing, when they are old enough to have a phone, teach them how to recognize common warning signs.

  • Hang up on anyone asking about Social Security numbers, even if the caller says they’re contacting them about credit cards, student loans, tax returns, or anything else important.
  • Let phone numbers they don’t recognize to go straight to voicemail.
  • Understand what “spoofing” is so no one in your family falls victim to ID theft by mistaking a fraudulent call for a real one.
  • Have your child make strong passwords for their online accounts
  • Help them to learn about common scams targeted at teens.
  • Let them know they aren’t obligated to give their SSN to most businesses, health facilities, and other places. Some things they’ll need to share it, so be sure they understand the difference and what questions they should ask before sharing their SSN.

Remember, you are never obligated to return a call or email, even if the person leaves a message or asks you to. If you’re worried it’s a real call, look up the phone number to the business or government agency, and call them back directly.

Freeze your child’s credit reports

If your child is under age 16, you should put a freeze on their credit report. You’ll have to gather the required information and send it to the three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Remember, if you have more than one child aged 16 and under, you’ll have to do this process for each child. Once your child’s credit is frozen, they’ll be protected from thieves who want to illegally use their Social Security number and name.

If you ever do receive a credit preapproval in the mail in your child’s name, follow up on it because it’s a potential red flag their identity has been targeted. Calls and letters from collection agencies are huge warning signs and should never be ignored.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, identity thieves have significantly increased their activity. The earlier you begin to monitor your child’s credit, the lessened chance a thief will do real damage to it before your child is of age.

PRBC is committed to helping people build good credit through our alternative credit score solution. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us today.

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