What you should know about child identity theft

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What is child identity theft?

What steps can I take to prevent my child from becoming a victim of identity theft?

How can I freeze my child’s credit?

What are the warning signs that my child may be a victim of identity theft?

What do I do if I think my child’s identity was stolen?


What is child identity theft?

Child identity theft occurs when someone uses a minor’s personal information, such as name, date of birth or Social Security number to fraudulently gain credit or other benefits. Creditors do not verify age of applicants. Thus, the discovery of this crime can go undetected until a child becomes an adult and seeks credit, only to find a history of falsely obtained credit in existence. The damage caused by child identity theft can vary from a single fraudulent bill in collections to a foreclosed mortgage. Thus, it is important to be vigilant about protecting your child from becoming a potential victim.

What steps can I take to prevent my child from becoming a victim of identity theft?

  1. Exercise extreme caution when releasing your child’s Social Security number (SSN). Before you disclose it, inquire as to why a party is requesting its use, such as for a medical record, and make sure that there are no alternative identifiers that could be used. You should also keep your child’s Social Security number card in a secure and safe place; for example, a safety deposit box or locked safe. Be sure to shred papers with your child’s SSN before discarding them. Additionally, educate your children about the dangers associated with giving out their personal information over the telephone and the Internet. Periodically, review all websites your family uses and monitor the submission of any personal identifying information.

  2. If your child has reached the age of 16, he or she should be taught how to obtain a free credit report from each of the three national credit reporting agencies – Experian, TransUnion and Equifax – once every 12 months. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228 to request this free report. Teach your child to carefully check their credit report for accuracy. Ask the credit reporting agency to document and review any incomplete or incorrect information. This is exceedingly important as problems on a credit report can affect receipt of college scholarships, financial aid, the ability to enlist in the military and/or the ability to secure a place to live. All consumers should obtain one free credit report every four months, alternating the three free available credit reports equally throughout the year. This method is a cost effective way to detect changes, enabling you to identify and resolve problems sooner than if all three credit reports were obtained annually at the same time.

  3. If your child is under the age of 16, place a “protected consumer” security freeze on their credit record.

How can I freeze my child’s credit?

As a proactive step to prevent child identity theft, New York State law affords parents and guardians of children under the age of 16 the opportunity to place a security freeze on their minor child’s credit record. The placement of a freeze prevents the credit reporting agency from releasing the child’s credit report to third parties. The freeze also prevents anyone from opening a credit account in the child’s name. A parent or guardian interested in placing a freeze on their child’s record must contact each credit reporting agency to effectuate a “protected consumer” freeze with that credit reporting agency. Each credit reporting agency has a different criteria to effectuate a “protected consumer” freeze.

A checklist of the steps required for each credit reporting agency to request a “protected consumer” freeze is below. For a handy reference guide, you can download the PDF version of the Credit Reporting Agency Check List (pdf).

TransUnion

1. Draft a letter to TransUnion requesting a “protected consumer freeze.”

Letter needs to include:

  • Name of the person requesting and relationship to the child
  • Last four digits of SSN of child
  • Address of the child
  • Signature of requestor

Include the following documents with the letter:

  • Copy of the child’s social security card
  • Copy of requestor’s social security card
  • Copy of the child’s birth certificate
  • Proof of name and address of person requesting (i.e., a federal/state government issued identification card, utility bill or insurance statement) showing both name and address
  • Proof of Authority of person requesting (Court Order, Power of Attorney, or a written notarized statement that expressly describes the authority to act on behalf of the Protected Consumer) New York residents are required to pay $15 for each protected consumer freeze request. Enclose the $15 fee in the form of a check or money order made payable to TransUnion.

2. Send request letter, supporting documents, and payment to:

TransUnion Protected Consumer Freeze
P.O. Box 380
Woodlyn, PA 19094

Equifax

1. Draft a letter to Equifax requesting a “minor child security freeze.”

Letter needs to include:

  • Name of the person requesting and relationship to the child
  • Last four digits of SSN of child
  • Address of the child
  • Signature of requestor

Include the following documents with the letter:

  • Certified or official copy of minor child’s birth certificate
  • Copy of minor child’s social security card
  • Completed Social Security Administration Form SSA-89 found at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/forms/ssa-89.pdf
  • Copy of parent/guardian driver’s license or other valid government issued identification
  • Copy of any billing statement that shows parent/ guardian’s mailing address
  • Proof of Authority of person requesting (Court Order, Power of Attorney, or a written notarized statement that expressly describes the authority to act on behalf of the Protected Consumer)

There is no cost to New York State residents.

2. Send request letter and supporting documents by:

Fax to: 678-795-7092 or
Mail to: Equifax
ATTN: Security Freeze —Minor Child
P.O. Box 105139
Atlanta, GA 30348

Allow 10 days to process. You may contact 888-202-4025 after that lapse in time to confirm the freeze has been placed.

Experian

1. Draft a letter to Experian requesting a “protected consumer security freeze.”

Letter needs to include:

  • Name of the person requesting and relationship to the child
  • Last four digits of SSN of child
  • Address of the child
  • Signature of requestor

Include the following documents with the letter:

  • Copy of the child’s social security card
  • Copy of requestor’s social security card
  • Copy of the child’s birth certificate
  • Proof of name and address of person requesting (i.e., a federal/state government issued identification card, utility bill or insurance statement) showing both name and address
  • Proof of Authority of person requesting (Court Order, Power of Attorney, or a written notarized statement that expressly describes the authority to act on behalf of the Protected Consumer) There is a $10 cost to New York State residents.
  • Sending electronically requires credit card information authorizing the charge in a paragraph within the letter
  • Sending via mail requires a check or money order to be enclosed payable to Experian

2. Send request letter, supporting documents, and payment to:

Using the protected minor’s name and identifying information, upload the freeze request to www.experian.com/consumer/upload (Place child’s information in the personal information section) or
Mail to: Experian
ATTN: Protected Consumer Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9701
Allen, TX 75013

What are the warning signs that my child may be a victim of identity theft?

Warning signs of child identity theft include:

  • Suspicious mail that arrives addressed to the child, such as bills, credit cards, or pre-approved credit offers
  • Phone calls or correspondence from debt collectors for debts supposedly owed by the child
  • An existing credit report in the child’s name
  • An existing financial account in the child’s name
  • Strange notices or requests from the Internal Revenue Service, such as:
    • Notices indicating your child has failed to pay income taxes when no income was earned
    • Requests confirming your child’s employment when your child is unemployed, and
    • Notices indicating your child’s information is listed on a tax return other than your own

It is important to check whether your child has a credit report. The credit reporting agencies do not knowingly keep credit files on minors. Therefore, contacting the credit reporting agencies to confirm your child does not have a credit file will likely mean that he/she has not been a victim. If there is no report at one credit reporting agency, it is still recommended that you contact the other two major credit agencies to confirm that no file exists for your child.

What do I do if I think my child’s identity was stolen?

If you think your child has been the victim of identity theft, take the following steps:

  • Obtain a credit report with your child’s personal information by contacting the three credit agencies:
    • Equifax: 888-202-4025
    • Experian: 800-493-1058
    • TransUnion: 800-680-7289 or childidtheft@transunion.com

  • If any fraudulent activity is detected, immediately file an identity theft complaint with your local police precinct and report findings to the three credit agencies. The police are required to provide identity theft victims with one free copy of the incident report.

  • Contact each credit reporting agency to place a freeze on your child’s credit record to prevent further damage. The security freeze fee is waived for victims of identity theft. The request must be accompanied by a copy of the victim’s police report.