Protecting Children from Familiar FraudApril 13, 2018
Familiar fraud, identity theft by someone who knows the victim, is despicable. Familiar fraud against children is even worse, and it’s all too common. A Carnegie Mellon study found that of 40,000 children in their survey population, more than 10 percent had been victims of identity theft, and a Javelin study found that 30 percent of identity theft is committed by family members. Even more disturbing, half the children who become victims have their identities stolen before they are 7 years old.
Children are easy targets for identity theft because they normally have no credit history, spotless credit, and no one is watching for unusual activity because there shouldn’t be any. Since many people may have access to their personal information, “familiar fraud” can be committed by a family acquaintance or someone at a school, business, medical office, or community organization. By the time the theft is discovered, the child is setting out on their own and can face years of trouble getting credit or loans for college, a car, a house, and more.
Here are four good ways to protect your child from identity theft:
- Guard their personal information, especially their Social Security number (SSN). The SSN is necessary to set up a savings account or buy a savings bond, but if schools or healthcare providers ask for the child’s SSN to use as an ID number, push back. Keep the child’s personal information out of sight and secure in your home. Also, never post personal information about your child on social media, and as they grow up, teach them not to post it, either.
- Watch for signs of trouble. If you get bills, calls from collection agencies, or pre-approved credit offers in your child’s name, check their credit report immediately. The three major credit bureaus have special procedures for reports involving minors, so contact them for specifics. If you find issues, freeze their credit report.
- If you know of a family member or acquaintance who is going through legal and financial difficulties or struggling with addiction, be especially on guard. There have even been cases where a parent steals a child’s identity to finance a drug, gambling, or other destructive habit. (These people often tell themselves they’ll pay the money back before anyone finds out, but they rarely do.)
- Include the child in your identity protection coverage. If you have an identity protection plan such as MyIDCare, you can list all family members in the home on your plan, so their identities will be monitored and, if there are problems, identity recovery experts will restore their identities to pre-theft condition.
The writer Goethe said the greatest things we can give our children are roots and wings. A clean identity is one of the roots of a successful life, so by protecting your child from familiar fraud, you can help them soar.