Think children are immune from identity thieves? Think again. Children have become prime target for identity thieves because, in part, they lack financial experience, meaning they have clean credit. The Better Business Bureau serving Central East Texas urges parents to use caution when filling out forms with their child’s personally identifiable information.
Children typically do not start applying for credit until at least early adulthood, which means identity theft is more likely to go undetected for many years. As this could create serious consequences, it’s important for parents to be proactive in protecting the identities of their children.
To minimize the risk of your child’s identity being compromised, consider the following:
• Contact each of the three credit bureaus. In an effort to reduce the occurrences of child identity theft, 19 states, including Texas, now require Equifax, Experian and Transunion to allow a parent/guardian to freeze the credit files of their minors.
• Understand how the child’s school handles private information. Schools are often targeted by identity thieves, as they maintain voluminous amounts of student data, so it’s important to know details on how the information will be used. Find out what other parties will have access to your child’s personally identifiable information, including programs sponsored by the school, and opt out if necessary.
• Keep antivirus software updated. Some identity thieves create viruses designed to search computers for documents containing your child’s Social Security number. Never store important and/or personally identifiable information or passwords on your computer.
• Shred all personal documents. Any documents that contain your child’s personal information should be shredded and not discarded in the trash can because people will dig through someone else's trash. The BBB conducts annual shredding events that are free to the community. The next BBB Shred Day is April 27. Go to bbb.org more information.
• Check your child’s credit report on their 16th birthday. This gives you enough time to fix errors before your child tries to obtain financial aid for college, get a car loan or rent an apartment. Go to annualcreditreport.com to check a credit report at no charge every 12 months.
If your child begins receiving any of the following, he or she may be a victim of identity theft:
• Credit card or loan applications.
• Phone calls or letters from collection agencies.
• Notices from the Internal Revenue Service regarding unpaid taxes or the child’s Social Security number was used on another tax return.
If you believe your child has been a victim of identity theft, contact each of the three credit bureaus and go to identitytheft.gov to fill out an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission.
For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call BBB at 903-581-5704 or use BBB ScamTracker.