How to Spot Child Identity Theft and How to Avoid It
June 2024
How to Spot Child Identity Theft and How to Avoid It

These days, almost everyone is online—including our kids. Translation: children’s private information is more exposed than ever. Why? Because information about them is collected every time they play an online game on their tablet, text with their friends on their phone, or surf the web on their laptop.

Your child’s information is at further risk when you input your child’s Social Security number (SSN) on your tax return or on an application because it can potentially be stolen by online thieves. In other words, your children are more vulnerable than ever to identity theft.

It’s important for parents to learn how to keep their kids’ identities as safe as possible in order to avoid child identity fraud.

What is Child Identity Theft?

Child identity theft is when someone fraudulently uses a child’s personal information, like their SSN, for illicit activities such as opening credit accounts, applying for benefits, applying for a job, applying for an apartment or taking out loans.

How Does Child Identity Theft Occur?

The way it usually happens is that a minor’s SSN gets compromised or stolen from online activity and stolen documents containing PII (personally identifiable information).

One of the biggest problems with child identity theft is that it’s so difficult to detect. People don’t usually apply for credit until they’re 18 or older, which means that fraudulent activity under a child’s name can go undetected for years.

4 Signs That a Minor’s Information Has Been Compromised

There are several telltale signs that your child’s identity has been stolen:

1. Your child receives pre-approved credit card offers

If an offer comes in with their name, it means that there’s an existing credit file with at least one of the three major credit bureaus. This should be uncommon for minors unless you are actively pursuing credit-building opportunities for your child.

2. You’re rejected for government benefits

The benefit you applied for may have already been paid to another account related to your child’s Social Security number. This could mean that someone has stolen your child’s identity and is using it to receive government benefit payouts under a different name. This may also indicate that the adult’s identity is at risk.

3. They get IRS correspondence

An example of a big red flag is when a minor who is not working receives communications from the IRS about income taxes. If your child is not working, they should not be getting any IRS correspondence.

Signs of identity theft like this should be followed up with a credit freeze, an investigation into their credit history, a report to the FTC, and efforts to restore your child’s identity.

4. Child is contacted for ‘unpaid bills’

In some cases, a minor’s personal information can be used for services that go unpaid. This results in collection agencies attempting to contact the child about their supposed outstanding bills. You may also receive communications about your child owing money.

These types of scenarios should be followed promptly by efforts to redeem your child’s credit and personal information.

What Do I Do If Someone’s Using my Child’s Information?

If you discover child identity theft, you should:

1. Close fraudulent accounts

Get in touch with the corporations affected and let them know about the theft, then ask them to shut down the account. Then get in touch with all three major credit bureaus—TransUnion, Experian and Equifax—and get them to remove all fraudulent accounts from your child’s credit report.

2. Freeze their credit report

Ask for a credit freeze/security freeze, which makes it more difficult to open accounts in your child’s name. Freezes stay in place until you ask for them to be removed.

3. Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission

Go to www.identitytheft.gov to report it to the FTC. Reporting only takes a few minutes. You will need to provide documentation to support your theft.

How to Protect your Child from Identity Theft

There are several steps you can take to protect your child’s identity.

1. Only use your child’s SSN when absolutely necessary

If an entity asks for your child’s SSN, ask why they need it, how they’ll protect it, if you can use something other than their SSN, and if it’s okay to just use the last four digits.

2. Closely monitor your child’s personal information

If you list your child’s SSN anywhere—in any paper or electronic documents—keep them safe. If they’re paper documents, shred them before throwing them away.

3. Delete personal information when updating electronic devices

Your laptops, tablets and phone all have stored personal info related to your child. When you upgrade your child’s phone to the latest iPhone, be sure to delete information on their previous device before throwing it away or selling it.

4. Use ID protection service

To prevent child identity theft from happening again in the future, professional services like IDShield will ensure you are properly monitoring and protecting your childrens’ PII.

IDShield Can Help

IDShield can help with personal data monitoring, privacy and reputation management, and all other issues related to child identity theft. If you’re also interested in getting best-in-class credit monitoring, sign up and get either 1 or 3 bureau monitoring plus one-on-one consultation to answer all your questions and help ensure that your credit score stays safe.