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Ooh, Baby! Identity Theft in Diapers

January 31, 2017

Baby showers are so much more fun than they used to be. Instead of a ladies-only luncheon, expectant parents can now look forward to the “man shower,” the earth-friendly “green shower,” or the “sprinkle” mini-shower for a second baby. If you still struggle to find the perfect gift for a new baby, one that they’ll never outgrow, how about identity theft protection? I know. It’s not a warm, cozy teddy bear that can be prominently displayed in the nursery. But believe it or not, a study by Carnegie Mellon University found that children are 51 times more likely than adults to be victims of identity theft.

Horrifying, isn’t it, that criminals would go after a brand new, innocent little person while they’re still in diapers? But that’s exactly why they do it. Newborns and other children have no credit cards to steal, no credit ratings, and no mortgages. What they do have is a bright, shiny new Social Security number that thieves can use to get all those things for themselves. And they know they can run the identity theft scam for years, because no one is likely to notice until the grown child applies for college financial aid, for a job or for a car loan and is refused because someone else has ruined their credit, or worse.

You have a few options to protect children from identity theft. Of course, keep their Social Security numbers safe. If you’re notified about a data breach that involves your child’s information, take advantage of any credit monitoring or identity theft protection services offered. Credit agencies don’t create credit ratings for children under 18, so you can’t routinely monitor a child’s credit reports. However, some states allow parents to block creation of a credit record or create one and freeze it, which would prevent thieves using the child’s SSN for financial transactions. Sad, but true: 30 percent of identity theft against children is committed by family members, so if you’re worried about deadbeat Uncle Harold, you might want to consider going this route. But for simple identity safety as your baby grows, identity theft protection will keep an eye out for danger while you’re enjoying your new little bundle of joy.

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