Has your child’s identity been stolen?
It is a good idea to check your child’s credit report around their 16th birthday to be sure they are not victims of identity theft.
Most people are aware that there is a risk of identity theft, and many take steps to ensure they are protected. However, children are also susceptible to having their identity stolen. It is a good idea when your child turns 16 to begin periodically monitoring their credit and look for possible fraud. Several signs can tip you off to the fact that someone is misusing your child’s personal information to commit fraud. For example, you or your child might:
- Get bills or notices for products or services you didn’t receive, including medical care
- Be turned down for government benefits because the benefits are being paid to another account using your child’s Social Security number
- Get a notice from the IRS saying the child didn’t pay taxes on income or that the child’s Social Security number was used on another tax return
If you suspect that your child’s information might be at risk, check whether your child has a credit report by contacting each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies:
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
Ask them to search using your child’s name and Social Security number.
If there is a credit report for your child, follow up with each credit reporting company. You will need to provide proof that your child is a minor, and that you are the parent or legal guardian. Ask each company to remove all accounts, account inquiries, and collection notices from any file associated with your child’s name and Social Security number.
If you know that your child’s identity is being misused, call one of the credit reporting companies and ask for a fraud alert on your child’s credit report.
That company will contact the others, and shortly, all three will have placed fraud alerts on any reports associated with your child’s name or Social Security number. These alerts are in force for 90 days.
Next, file a report with the FTC. Do it at www.ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 877-438-4338. If the fraud relates to medical services or taxes, you might need to file a police report, as well. Finally, contact every company where your child’s information was misused. Ask each to close the fraudulent account and flag it to show it resulted from identity theft.
It’s a good idea to check whether your child has a credit report when they are approaching their 16th birthday. If there is one, and it has errors due to fraud or misuse, you will have time to correct it before the child applies for a job, a loan for tuition or a car, or needs to rent an apartment.
To learn more about possible identity abuse or theft contact the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov or contact a financial literacy educator with Michigan State University Extension. To find an educator in your area, visit http://expert.msue.msu.edu/ or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464)