It’s hard to believe that Labor Day has come and gone and the kids are back in school. In other words, summer is over. For parents with minor children, whether the kids are back in school or not, their job is never done. It’s always one thing or another. Unfortunately, I am going to add another thing that they need to do. A few years ago you wouldn’t have thought that what I’m about to tell you would be an issue, but unfortunately, in our tech crazy world, this has become important. What I’m talking about is a growing problem we have in this country and that is, identity theft of minors.
According to the experts, children are now becoming one of the more favorite targets of identity thieves. In fact, what research has shown is that on the dark web where the crooks operate and where peoples’ personal information is bought and sold, a child’s personal information is going for 10 to 20 times more than an adult’s information. The crooks know that they are less likely to be caught when they use a child’s stolen identity as opposed to an adult’s.
When the lowlifes steal a child’s Social Security number it allows them to create a fake profile for the child and then they use that profile to obtain credit cards, take out loans and even apply for public assistance. What makes this scam so attractive to the crooks is that in the great majority of cases, the crime goes unnoticed for years and years until the child starts applying for credit cards in their own name or student loans. In fact, identify theft amongst children is so prevalent that Experian, one of the largest credit reporting companies, estimated that identify theft will affect one in four children before they become an adult. Because identity theft is such a problem, and once a child’s personal information is stolen it is very difficult to correct the problem, parents need to be proactive. A new federal law that goes into effect on September 21st will make is easier to protect your child’s identity. The new federal law will allow parents of children under the age of 16 to freeze a child’s credit file until the child is old enough to use credit. Basically, a credit freeze will restrict access to your credit file thus, making it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your child’s name. My recommendation for parents with minor children is that when the new law takes effect on September 21st they should contact the three main credit reporting agencies, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax, and check on your child’s credit file. In the great majority of situations, the child should not have a credit file, and if that is the case, what the parents should do is to then freeze the child’s credit. According to the new law there is no charge for you to freeze your child’s credit. On the other hand, if your child does have a credit file it may signal that there is a problem, which unfortunately, you cannot ignore.
Identity theft is a major problem in our country and it is not getting any better. This is a reminder how important it is that you always protect your sensitive information, including that of your child’s. Remember, just because someone asks for your Social Security number doesn’t mean you have to give it to them. As far as I’m concerned, when someone asks for my Social Security number, my general answer is no. I make them prove to me they need the Social Security number, and you would be surprised more often than not they admit that they really don’t need the number. I know it seems kind of crazy that we have to be worried about a child’s identity theft, but it is what it is and unfortunately, it’s not going to get better anytime soon. Therefore, if you have a child who is under 16, make sure that when the new law takes effect you become pro-active, and check your child’s credit and freeze their accounts.
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