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5 Ways to Protect Your Child From an Identity Thief

Identity thieves and hackers seem to show very little mercy these days. Anyone can become a target and have their personal information stolen and used illegally. That goes for minors, too. As a parent, it’s important to monitor your own credit report, bills and bank accounts. It’s just as important to be vigilant and ensure that your son or daughter doesn’t become a victim of fraud.

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1.  Keep Your Child in the Loop

If identity theft is a concern, one of the best ways to protect your kids is to explain why they should care about their security. Children as young as five can understand the risks that come with letting private data fall into the wrong hands. You can encourage your child to come to you whenever they see something out of the ordinary or someone asks for their Social Security number, address, passwords or phone number.

On your end, you can keep your young children safe by setting up parental controls that block them from accessing sites that aren’t secure. This strategy likely won’t work well for teenagers, so you can talk to them about taking precautions as they use social media or shop online.

2. Keep Personal Information Secure

5 Ways to Protect Your Child From an Identity Thief

It’s a good idea to store your child’s personal documents in a safe place at home instead of keeping them in your everyday bag or leaving them lying around. Shredding paperwork with private information on it is another good idea.

Although they might request it, outsiders generally do not need access to your child’s birth certificate or Social Security number. Friends, extended family and babysitters don’t need that access either.

Related Article: Five Simple Ways To Protect Against Identity Theft Online

3.  Look Out for Unusual Activity

There are many signs of child identity theft that it’s smart to watch out for. If you find yourself in any of the following situations, it’s a good idea to reach out to the credit reporting agencies and the police as soon as you can.

  • You’re comparing checking accounts and are told that your child isn’t eligible for one because they have poor credit or the bank says they already have an account.
  • The IRS claims that your young son or daughter owes taxes.
  • Your child frequently receives credit card or loan applications in the mail.
  • You find bills in your child’s name.

4.  See if Your Child Has a Credit File

5 Ways to Protect Your Child From an Identity Thief

It’s a red flag if your kids have credit reports with accounts you don’t know about. The good news is that you can access your child’s report to check for fraud. Each credit bureau has a different process for parents who want to check for a credit file in their child’s name.

TransUnion has a child identity theft inquiry form that you can fill out. The credit reporting agency will look for a credit report and if your child has one, TransUnion may be willing to mail you a copy.

Both Experian and Equifax request that parents mail them copies of the child’s birth certificate, Social Security number, ID and proof of address to confirm whether the child has a credit file. If you’re contacting Equifax, you’ll also need to include a letter in your package saying that you believe a thief might have stolen your child’s identity. Experian requires parents to submit the minor child instructions form from their website, along with the other documents.

Related Article: 5 Things You Need to Do When Your Identity’s Been Stolen

5. Consider Freezing Your Child’s Credit Report

Freezing a child’s credit report is possible if you want to eliminate the threat of identity theft. This tactic has been difficult to implement in the past, simply because kids typically don’t have existing credit files that can be frozen. Equifax now allows parents in all 50 states to create credit reports for their children and then freeze them, but the other two credit bureaus have stricter guidelines regarding credit freezes for minors.

With a credit freeze, credit issuers can’t view someone’s credit report. As a result, anyone applying for new credit under your child’s name likely won’t be able to do so. But even a freeze won’t necessarily prevent a thief from using your son or daughter’s information to get treatment at a doctor’s office or get a tax refund from the IRS.

Bottom Line 

Identity theft is an issue that threatens everyone from children to individuals paying off student loans and even retirees. Identity thieves who target children can be harder to catch because children are less likely to check their credit reports until they get older.

If you’re not ready to go through the hassle of obtaining a credit freeze, you can prevent a thief from targeting your child by refusing to share personal data, changing passwords regularly and teaching your children the importance of protecting themselves online.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Aldo Murillo, ©iStock.com/Susan Chiang, ©iStock.com/shironosov

Amanda Dixon Amanda Dixon is a personal finance writer and editor with an expertise in taxes and banking. She studied journalism and sociology at the University of Georgia. Her work has been featured in Business Insider, AOL, Bankrate, The Huffington Post, Fox Business News, Mashable and CBS News. Born and raised in metro Atlanta, Amanda currently lives in Brooklyn.
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