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child id theft

 

Many of us have experienced that moment of panic upon learning that our personal or financial information has been compromised. Will the thieves use my financial information and drain my accounts? Will they use my identity to open new accounts and ruin my credit?

 
But it’s not often that we think of our children as being susceptible to the same risks. Child identity theft is more common than you might think. Javelin Strategy and Research’s  2018 Child Identity Theft Study reported that child identity theft affected over one million American children that year. It’s important to do research into your child’s credit earlier rather than later. With your child’s information, a criminal could obtain a credit card; open a utility, cell phone, or other accounts; receive government benefits or tax refunds; receive medical treatment, or claim illegal residency.

 
Children are especially vulnerable because they have pristine credit histories and parents do not often check their child’s credit report. Yet, a child’s information may be required for day care, school, or a visit to the doctor’s office. This means thieves can gain access to your child’s personal information and potentially exploit their credit for years.

Red Flags for Spotting Identity Theft:

  • Check to see if your child has a credit report (search through Experian, TransUnion or Equifax)
  • Monitor for mail or bills coming into your home with your child’s name on it
  • Debt collectors calling about a debt in your child’s name
  • Medical bills for procedures your child did not receive

So how can you help keep your child’s information secure? Keep your child’s SSN card in a safe location. Don’t carry it around on you. Parents can also consider freezing a child’s credit. A new federal law that took effect September 2018 requires credit bureaus to create a file for a child at the request of the parent in order to freeze it. It’s also smart to shred old documents with personal information on them and make sure any personal information that is stored on your computer is protected and that your anti-virus and firewall software is up-to-date. Be careful who you give your child’s personal information to and don’t be afraid to ask why they need certain information. This goes for requests made via email as well. Scammers may send scam emails, in an effort to obtain personal information: Don’t Be Lured by Phishing Scams.  And educate your child about using strong passwords and never sharing personal information about themselves online or with strangers in chat rooms, social networks, or online video games.

If you suspect your child’s identity has been compromised, it’s important to act quickly. Review our identity theft checklist for specific steps to take, including filing a police report, filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, and immediately contacting the three major credit bureaus to request a copy of the file, if one exists, and alert them of your suspicious.

Notify the fraud department of creditors, banks, in-store credit card companies where your child’s information has been fraudulently used and ask that all accounts that have been fraudulently opened in your child’s name to be immediately closed or frozen

For more information on preventing ID Theft, visit the FTC’s website www.consumer.gov/idtheft

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s vehicular and customized wheelchair Lemon Laws and Arbitration Programs, Data Breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs and the MA Do Not Call Registry.

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