The worst thing about identity theft is that you often don’t even know you are a victim. At least when your purse is stolen, you know your money and credit cards are gone. With identity theft, someone could be racking up debt in your name, stealing from your savings account, or using your health insurance and you won’t even know about it until serious damage has been done. Identity theft is often discovered when you review your credit report or are contacted by a debt collector. But what if the ID theft victim doesn’t have a credit report or can’t be contacted? For certain special kinds of victims, this is, unfortunately, the case.
The Hidden Danger of Child Identity Theft
According to Javelin Strategy & Research, over 1 million children were victims of identity theft in 2017, and two-thirds of them were under the age of 8. These thefts resulted in $540 million in out-of-pocket costs to families. Because children have Social Security numbers and addresses just like adults, thieves can use this information to open bank accounts and credit cards, apply for utilities, access benefits such as welfare and unemployment, and take out major loans. You can protect your child from this kind of invasion by taking the following steps:
Guard your child’s Social Security Number.
Keep your baby’s Social Security card safely locked away—there is no need to carry it around. Other than in tax situations, no organization or agency should ever need to know your child’s SSN.
Limit release of personal information.
In these days of social media oversharing, it can be hard to resist posting pictures and updates about your precious addition, but avoid providing too much information. Also, do not subscribe to magazines or activity clubs in your child’s name. These lists get sold and can end up in the wrong hands.
Look for suspicious activity.
If you are getting credit card offers and other mail addressed to your child, this could be a sign that someone else is using your child’s identity.
Check with credit reporting agencies.
If you have any reason to suspect that your child’s identity may have been compromised, check his or her SSN with the three credit reporting agencies. They are required by law to respond to you, even if it’s just to confirm that the child has no credit history. You may want to run this check every year, just like you do for yourself.
You want your child to get the best start in life, and protecting their identity from day one is a good first step.
When a Loved One Dies, Protect Their Financial Information
The last thing you want to think about after the loss of a family member is protecting them from theft, but it’s important that you do. Thieves prey on the estates of people who have recently died because they know how vulnerable they are. To ward off these predators, as soon as you have a death certificate, send a copy to each of the three credit reporting agencies, as well as each of your loved one’s creditors, insurance companies, banks, and the Social Security Administration. You will also want to cancel their driver’s license with the DMV and either lock up or shred any documents with personal information on them, including utility bills, bank statements, pay stubs, etc. It is also wise to avoid including too much personal information—like their exact birthdate and middle name—in an obituary. It is difficult to think about dealing with these details while you are mourning a loss, but you could face years of legal battles if you don’t.
Warn Your Millennial Children of the Risks
Young adults aged 20-29, otherwise known as the millennial generation, account for 15 percent of identity theft complaints, according to Javelin. Experts say that this generation’s willingness to share personal data on social networks and through a variety of cutting-edge apps puts them at particular risk. They may be out from under your roof—or maybe they’re still at home—but they’re not too old for a little advice about privacy from a wise parent.
When an Attorney May Be Necessary
If you have experienced identity theft involving a child, deceased loved one, or young adult and are fighting with credit reporting agencies, debt collectors, or creditors to clear their name, you may need the help of a California consumer attorney. Contact me online or call my office directly at 855.982.2400 and I’ll let you know as soon as possible if I can help you recover damages on your behalf.