Hundreds of online businesses are finding inactive Social Security numbers online –most of which are assigned to children under the age of 18 who have not started using them yet - and selling them under different names to help people establish fake credit. The scheme may lead to significant debts, difficult for children to expunge from credit reports. Better Business Bureau is warning parents to be on the lookout for the signs that point to their child’s identity being compromised or stolen.
For adults, last year alone, 8.1 million Americans became victims of ID theft, resulting in the loss of $37 billion, according to a 2011 report from Javelin Strategy and Research. While this number is exuberantly high, NBC TODAY reports that it becomes harder to define how many children are actually affected by identity theft because of the fact that most cases go undiscovered for years. However, an identity theft monitoring company, Debix, found that out of 40,000 cases of tainted identities, an alarming 4,000 belonged to children.
“It’s more important than ever that adults not only protect their own identity, but also the identity of children in their care," says Tom Bozikis, Vice President of Policy and Standards. "Taking a few simple steps now can save a lot of work clearing up tarnished credit reports, in the future."
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. Getting access to your child’s records is actually a different process than obtaining your own. 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, (see the FAQ area of 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 that your child is in the clear. But 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 — and get a report from them, too.
Recognize the signs of trouble. Watch out for red flags that indicate there might be a problem, 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.
For more information on securing your identity, visit our News Center.