Hundreds of online businesses are finding inactive Social Security numbers –most of which are assigned to children under the age of 18 - and selling them under different names to help people establish fake credit. The scheme may lead to significant debts for children. Better Business Bureau is warning parents to be on the lookout for signs that point to their child’s identity being compromised or stolen.
Last year alone, 8.1 million adult Americans became victims of ID theft, resulting in the loss of $37 billion, according to a 2011 report from Javelin Strategy and Research. NBC TODAY reports that it becomes harder to define how many children are actually affected by identity theft because most cases go undiscovered for years. An identity theft monitoring company, Debix, found an alarming 4,000 cases of tainted identities, out of only 40,000 children.
“It’s terrifying to think your child or even unborn child’s identity could be compromised,” said Gary Almond, President of the BBB serving Northeast California. “It is extremely important parents take the necessary precautions to protect your child from identity theft.”
BBB urges parents to follow these important steps to secure their child’s identity:
Be aware of how to obtain your child’s credit report. Your child’s report cannot be obtained using the congressionally mandated free credit report website when under the age of 13 and even sometimes for children ages 14 to 18, http://AnnualCreditReport.com. For parents with children under the age of 13, the easiest way to obtain your child’s records is through Trans Union. According to NBC TODAY, if Trans Union says there is no report, odds are good your child is in the clear. If there is a report — or you have a specific reason to believe your child is a victim — you'll want to follow up with the nation's other two major credit bureaus — Experian and Equifax.
Recognize the signs of trouble. Watch out for red flags indicating there might be identity theft, such as your son or daughter receiving pre-approved credit card offers or calls from collection agencies.
Know what to do if you suspect that your child has fallen victim. According to the FTC, every parent should check their child’s credit report on their 16th birthday. It’s not good to check it too often, but checking then leaves sufficient time to fix errors and activity before their child goes off to college and tries to obtain financial aid. If suspicious activity arises, parents must contact all three credit bureaus and request a report immediately. From there depending on your state's credit freeze rule, placing a credit freeze should be considered.