As summer draws to a close, many children across the country are heading back to school. It is difficult as a parent to let your child go into an unknown world, unable to offer any sort of protection. You can only hope you have prepared them for another year of school, and get them on the bus. As if the stress of back to school was not enough for parents across the United States, there is another problem many parents are having to worry about Child Identity Theft. It almost sounds like a joke, but child identity theft is a very large problem across the country that many families are encountering. Here is everything a parent should know about child identity theft.
Children under 18 are the newest victims of identity theft in America. No, the practice is not nearly as common as identity theft on adults, but it is a serious enough issue that parents should be aware of and take caution. A 2012 study by the Identity Theft Assistance Center found that 2.5 percent of American households encountered child identity theft at some point. Commonly, a child’s social security number is stolen and then combined with a different date of birth. This allows the thief to use this new, “synthetic identity” for many things. Another frequent child identity theft practice is known as “friendly fraud.” This is when a family friend or family member uses the child’s identity for various financial purposes like applying for credit cards.
What makes child identity theft more dangerous than adult identity theft is that it is not easy to spot. Most parents, unless they have already opened accounts or credit cards for the child, are under the assumption that their child’s credit will remain clean and intact. This leads to years of unchecked credit, meanwhile, the child’s identity could have been stolen. This means that often, by the time the theft is detected, the child’s credit is already ruined.
Common indicators that your child’s credit may have been compromised include:
- Receiving notice that your child’s social security number was used on a different tax return;
- Notice from the IRS that your child did not pay taxes on their income (even though they have no income);
- Hearing from collections agencies about purchases in your child’s name, or purchases of products that you purchase; and
- Being rejected from government programs because your child’s social security number has already been used.
Parents should take precautions to ensure that their child’s identity remains intact. Be cautious of any time you are asked to list your child’s social security number. Many forms do require it, for identification purposes, but listing the number can be risky. Ask how the information will be used and how it will be protected before agreeing to provide the number. It should be possible to supply another form of identification as well if need be. Families should also be sure to keep personal documents stored safely at home. Consider purchasing a container, ideally fireproof and lockable, to keep these sensitive documents. Also, be sure to shred any documents with any personal information before disposing of them.
Minor precautions can help keep your child safe from identity theft. Always be sure to report any suspicious activity to your financial institutions. The charges for identity theft are extremely serious and should not be taken lightly. If you are dealing with identity theft charges, a qualified San Jose criminal defense attorney can help. The experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas Nicholas Cvietkovich are available to assist you.