As if helping their children navigate the online world wasn’t challenging enough for parents, children have become an attractive target for online identity thieves.
While most people would not assume that a child would be able to obtain a credit card, the Social Security numbers of children are attractive to identity thieves because a kid’s lack of a credit history makes it relatively easy to obtain a credit card in his or her name.
If a card issuer checks a credit report and doesn’t find any negative information, the application for a new account is likely to be issued and the thief soon launches a spending spree with the new account.
Using a child’s legitimate information to open a fake account is difficult to detect. If bills are sent to a different address, it can take a significant period of time – perhaps years — before the child is old enough to apply for a job or try to obtain credit on his or her own.
Reducing the Risk
To help reduce the risk, it’s important to be aware of how your child’s Social Security number is used. This means protecting sensitive documents such as tax returns and school records, and asking schools and medical providers about their policy practices.
It’s also a good idea to add your kids to your credit card accounts. This will help you monitor your credit reports for suspicious activity that may indicate fraudulent accounts that you don’t know about.
In some states, you can apply a proactive credit freeze in your children’s name that prevents any credit activity until they’re ready for it.
Also pay attention to the mail that’s sent to your children. If you kids start getting credit-related pre-approved offers or other financial mail that doesn’t make sense, check with the credit agencies to see if their identity has been compromised.