What’s in a name? Protect children and youth from identity theft

Even young adults need to protect their good name by checking their credit report on an annual basis.

At birth we are all given a name. Simple or complex, it is ours – a way for people to recognize us; it’s the foundation of our identity. The name you are given doesn’t just provide a physical image for others, it can also provide a financial picture of who you are. Unfortunately for many young people, the parents who first gave them their good name are also taking it away. A 2011 data report released by ID Analytics found that nearly 500,000 children under the age of 18 had their identities stolen by a parent.

Parents battling a difficult economy and high unemployment rates find themselves trying to escape bad debt and provide for their family. When the credit score under their own name and social security number has been severely damaged, some troubled parents resort to using their child’s personal information to secure what they need. No matter the justification, the act of using someone else’s personal information for private gain is identity theft – even if that person is a birth child.

Under our current system, every parent has access to their child’s social security number and legal name. Armed with this information, they can do almost anything. It is possible to rent a home, take out a mortgage or car loan, register for utilities, credit cards or purchase a phone. These things may begin with the parent having the best of intentions for meeting their financial obligations, but if they fall behind and bad debt occurs under an unsuspecting child’s name, that child is left financially handicapped before they have even begun to establish their own credit.

This can go on for years until the unsuspecting youth tries to obtain their first credit card or a student loan only to be denied. Instead, they are stuck repaying a parent’s bad debt in the effort to repair damage to their own credit history. This process can take years and prevent a young adult from realizing dreams like home ownership. It can also put a young person in the difficult position of deciding whether or not to report the parent(s) to law enforcement.

Young adults should begin checking their credit report at least once a year while still in high school. This report is available free of charge through the credit bureaus of Experian, Equifax and Transunion. The report can be sought through their secure website or via U.S. mail. Under current legislation, an individual can obtain one free report from each agency in a twelve month period. Individuals finding errors on their credit report are encouraged to report fraud to the three credit bureaus at www.equifax.com, www.experian.com and www.transunion.com.

It is your name – protect it!

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