ITRC Fact Sheet 120B - Child Identity Theft Indicators:
A Guide for Parents
This guide includes:
- Prevention Recommendations
- Red Flags
Child identity theft occurs when a child’s identity is used by another person for personal gain. The perpetrator may be a family member or a person known by the family. This person could also be a stranger who purposely targets children. This crime is attractive because it often goes undetected until the child reaches legal age.
Some cases that appear to be identity theft are not. Receiving a pre-approved credit card offer in your child’s name might be a red flag. However, this could also be just an innocent marketing tool sent because you opened a college fund for your child. Sometimes banks put all customers on marketing lists despite their age. We recommend that you opt out of all marketing lists with the bank when you open an account. This will reduce the number of pre-approved credit card offers.
It is vitally important that you create a safe environment and a sense of open dialogue should a child see a credit card or bill at someone else’s home in his/her name - especially at an ex-spouse’s home. Just as we talk about “good touch, bad touch” to small children to avoid child sexual abuse, we must talk about identity theft with our younger and older teens, leaving a door open for them to ask questions or express concerns if they arise. Please see the ITRC’s Teen Space for suggestions, information, and interactive games.
NOTE: ITRC and the three credit reporting agencies do not recommend that you automatically check your child’s credit report annually UNLESS you have an indication of a problem. A child should not have a report unless someone has started to apply for credit using that child’s SSN (SSN). To just order reports unnecessarily actually confuses the computerized systems of the reporting agencies and opens a door to thieves because it establishes a credit report.
Be aware that consumers cannot prevent most cases of identity theft. However, there are steps you can take that limit the opportunities a thief has take advantage of you. There are more tips elsewhere on the ITRC website, including Scam Alerts, Blog Sense and Prevention Tips.
Parents/Guardians are often asked to show a copy of a birth certificate and/or a Social Security card in order for their children to participate in after school sports. Coaches may ask for photocopies of these papers. ITRC does not believe that this is a wise business practice. A more secure information handling practice should become policy. We recommend the following:
- Ask if the coach has had a criminal and financial background check done by an independent or hiring source. If not, will one be done? This should be an automatic practice due to the amount of child molestation and child information theft.
- Show the papers to the coach and then put them in a sealed envelope. Write your name across the sealed flap in colored ink. This is so you can tell if it has been opened.
- Initial the back of each page in colored ink that you place in the envelope. At the end of the season, you will know if you got the original back.
- Ask where the papers will be stored during the season. Parents need to make sure their envelope will be stored in a locked box and returned unopened at the seasons end, unless notified that there is a need to show them to other people.
- Cross-cut shred all papers you throw out that contain account or SSNs.
- Do not carry your or your child’s SSN in your wallet, including Social Security cards. If necessary (i.e. health insurance cards) make a photocopy of the card, cut off the last four numbers of the SSN and carry that photocopy with you on a daily basis. Only carry original cards on days you know you will need them. Then if your wallet is lost or stolen, this information will not be compromised.
- Some schools ask for your child’s SSN during registration. Ask if this is an optional field and what would happen if you DON’T fill it out. Many parents are surprised to find out that it is optional. If they do require it, make sure you talk with an administrator of the district to find out why. This is a time to be assertive and make sure it is necessary. A change in policy sometimes begins with a few parents’ objecting to a current policy.
- Teach children not to give out personal information over the phone and do not give out any of your or your child’s information on the Internet unless you are sure that you are dealing with a legitimate company. When in doubt, don’t. You can check out companies with the Better Business Bureau, the FBI or your State Attorney General if you have any concerns. Think first, don’t give out information and then later regret it.
- Resist giving out your driver’s license number or SSN (or a child’s SSN) unless they have a good reason for needing it. A doctor’s office is a great place for a child profiler to collect information. Make sure that the physician is aware of that and that his or her staff is taking proper precautions with your child’s information. Watch for people who may try to eavesdrop and overhear the information you give out orally.
- Teach proactive measures for safe blogging (ITRC Fact Sheet 127 and ITRC Solution 14)
- When possible, ask your college not to use your SSN as your college ID number. If they insist on doing so, only carry your original card on the days you need it. Request for personal identifying numbers (SSNs ) not be required on circulating rosters that others may see. Insist that those numbers not be posted in any public display areas.
- Lock your information away. Roommates may seem friendly and end up as good friends, but too many victims have found out that an unscrupulous roommate or friend has stolen their information.
- Watch your backpacks, briefcases, or anything you carry your wallets or important papers in at all times (this includes while you are in class, at lunch and in the library).
- Use a locked mailbox to send and receive all mail. Do not leave mail unattended for pickup in an “out” box.
- For ease in ordering credit reports, college students may want to use their parent’s address as an official address while in college since many students change addresses yearly.
- Tale precautions when seeking a job, ITRC Fact Sheet 121.
- Calls from collection agencies, bills or credit cards sent to your home in your child’s name.
- Pre-approved credit card offers if your child never had a bank account. Remember if there is an open college savings account that may be the reason. Check it out especially if the name is slightly different. For example, you have the account in your daughter’s legal name but the pre-approved offer comes in her nickname.
- The child’s name on the “caller id” is listed for another person’s house. For instance, your child calls from the other parent’s home or from their grandparent’s home and the account holder name on the caller id is in the child’s name.
- A person who knows your child’s SSN has had financial problem, suddenly “found” a lot of money.
- A person who knows your child’s SSN with a history of fraud or drug addiction and has money to spare.
- An ex-spouse who has abused you, or used your SSN fraudulently, may well be doing the same with a child’s SSN. Many cases are “all in the family.”
- A history of using another child’s SSN fraudulently. In the case of a theft of a SSN or other personal identifying information, take the time to call and ask if there is a credit report within 3 months of the theft.
- A person who knows your child’s SSN and may have access to the birth certificate is able to get a driver’s license when you know their original was suspended or revoked.
- If the child gets a notice about a warrant for a traffic violation or for taxes owed or a lien on income this is a sign.
- Your child, or your family, is denied a governmental assistance program because “income, already getting benefits, etc. is already assigned to the child’s SSN”. You might also be told they want to “verify his/her job” and the child has never worked.
- A notice from the IRS that your child’s name and/or SSN is already listed on another tax return.
- A quick check of credit reports will help you sort out the truth. Currently, all three reporting agencies have just automated systems. You should call to request a credit report for your child, only if you suspect that your child is a victim of identity theft. If told that there is no credit report, this is probably not a case of financial identity theft.
We recommend that you follow the directions listed in ITRC Fact Sheet 120A – To Order a Child’s Credit Report.
Some people try to trick the system by calling and changing the birth year of the child to see if a report exists. We do not suggest this; however, some people report that they have quickly confirmed that a report exists. Please note: Utility companies and credit card companies are not obligated to notify the three credit reporting agencies when an account is opened. Some wait until bills are not being paid or it goes to collection. The lack of information in a credit report at one moment in time does not permanently confirm that no activity is going on.
ITRC Letter Form 120 - Requesting a Child's Credit Report
Copyright 2012, Identity Theft Resource Center®, all rights reserved. Created by ITRC