Identity theft is bad enough. When it happens to a child, it can be even worse. Children are an especially vulnerable population to identity thieves, who consider a child’s personal identifying information (PII) more valuable than that of an adult. Why is this you ask? It’s all a matter of usage.
As an adult, you’re more likely to be keeping tabs on your information, such as your credit reports, activity, and history, because you most likely make use of your credit acquisition ability somewhat regularly. You monitor bank statements, pay bills, shop with your credit cards, all of these things that are uniquely adult.
A child has NO legitimate usage for their SSN in terms of finances. They aren’t old enough to legally acquire credit, or take out loans, or even have a bank account without a parent or guardian co-signing. What this effectively means for an identity thief is if they are able to acquire a child’s PII, they’re far more likely to have an extended period of time where they can use the information without it being picked up on by the information’s actual owner. Whereas an adult might notice within a month that for some odd reason their credit score has dropped or the loan they were applying for was denied, most of us wouldn’t think to do this same sort of checking on a child’s information because, after all, they can’t get credit anyways…right?
The truth is that there’s no way for a lender to check on the age attached to an SSN. All they can see is the number, the credit history, and a name. If someone is able to successfully forge documentation and has all the right information, they will be able to acquire credit, even if the SSN is supposed to belong to a minor. And here’s the really tricky part – by attempting to be proactive and check your child’s credit in advance, you may actually be doing more harm than good.
A person under the age of 18 who’s not a victim of identity theft will have no credit file. No credit report, no credit history, nothing. Nada. An overly eager parent, by requesting a report, may inadvertently create one, thus making it even easier for a potential thief to take advantage. Usually, if your child is being victimized you’ll begin receiving pre-approved credit offers for your child in the mail or other types of marketing (think store catalogs or promotional offers). Receiving curious mailers is usually a strong indication that someone has used your child’s name and SSN to request lines of credit. If you have reason to suspect your child might be a victim of identity theft, you should take the following steps:
Write to the three Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs) to see if there are credit reports in that child’s Social Security Number. The best news would be an answer of “there is no report.”
When you write to the agencies, place the following items in your cover letter:
- Child’s full name
- Child’s Social Security Number
- Your name
- Your address
- Your relationship to the child or children in question
- Request for a search for a credit report in the child’s Social Security Number. Remember- the imposter may be using a different name and most definitely a different birth date.
- A copy of the credit report, if one exists, be mailed to you immediately
NOTE: A flag may be placed on the report or the report can be suppressed, if a report exists.
Please note, all correspondence must be sent certified, return receipt request. This is the only way you can prove that you sent the information. You should also include any documentation showing that you have legal custody of the child if you are divorced or have legal guardianship of the child.