Last year, more than 19,000 reports of child identity theft were registered with the Federal Trade Commission. Child identity theft occurs when a thief obtains the Social Security number, or some other personal information, of a child and uses it to obtain a loan, get a job, or obtain government benefits, among other things.
The really terrible thing about this crime is that it can go undetected for years – until the child grows up and applies for credit for the first time. But even though this crime is an ever-increasing problem, many parents are still unaware. Parents who are between the ages of 25 and 34, according to a recent survey, are generally familiar with the concept. Of those surveyed, 13 percent know someone who is the parent of a child identity theft victim, while 11 percent know a victim.
So what can you do if you suspect your child is a victim? Your first instinct might be to obtain your child's credit report, but you may run into some difficulty if you try to get it from annualcreditreport.com. The federally-mandated site is restricted by the Children's Online Protection Act, which protects children under the age of 13. If your child is at least 14, you can obtain a credit report from annualcreditreport.com.
In order to obtain your child's credit report for your younger child, you will have to contact the three credit bureaus directly, because you need to provide proof of legal guardianship. If you do so and are told your child has no credit report, then it's a good thing; it means your child is safe.
But if your child has a credit report, his or her information has been compromised, and you must take action. You can place a credit freeze on the child's records, and you will need to work with law enforcement and listed creditors to correct the fraudulent activity.
But your child may be a victim even without a credit report. Sometimes, a child's Social Security number is stolen and used, without it being reported to credit bureaus. This is most often done by undocumented workers, who are illegally in the United States, and who use the information to get work.
But it is important to note that the Federal Trade Commission recommends not getting your child's credit report unless you are sure there is foul play. The FTC recommends waiting until your child is 16, which will give you a couple of years until your child is of age to fix any problems you might find.