Picture this: Your son is ready to head off to college, and as part of the process, he is applying for student loans. Sounds pretty normal, huh?
But what if your son is turned down because he has bad credit – and he's never applied for credit before?
This may sound a little far-fetched, but it happens way more than you think. The Federal Trade Commission has pointed out that child identity theft is a huge problem that is growing every day, and parents are urged to do everything they can to protect their children.
But how does child identity theft happen? Most often, thieves get their hands on the child's Social Security number, and then use the number to obtain a credit card, get a mortgage, rent an apartment, get a cell phone or apply for a job.
The thing that makes child identity theft so frustrating for its victims is that the theft goes undetected for so long. It's often not discovered until the child has grown up and is applying for credit for the first time. By then, the criminal is long gone.
How can you put a stopper in child identity theft and protect your child? First make sure you store your child's SSN in a safe, secure place. Only provide the number to others when it is absolutely necessary, and always ask if an alternate form of verification is acceptable.
Keep an eye out for pre-approved credit card offers in the mail, in your child's name. If you receive them, your child's identity may have been compromised. You'll want to contact the credit bureaus and find out if your child has a credit report, and if so, get copies.
If a theft has occurred, report it to the police, and place a credit freeze on your child's credit file, so that you'll be notified immediately if there is any further attempted activity. You may even wish to consider signing up with a credit monitoring or identity theft protection service, just to be sure.