Parents tend to take plenty of precautions when trick-or-treating with their child. However, it’s important to consider an aspect to their safety that isn’t always seen – their identity.
A 2012 study by the Identity Theft Assistance Center found that 2.5 percent of U.S. households with children under age 18 experienced child identity fraud at some point during their child’s lifetime. This Halloween, Better Business Bureau serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin encourages parents to not only keep their children safe while trick-or-treating, but also to start monitoring their child’s credit report to prevent devastating damage to their future.
Identity thieves often steal Social Security numbers, attach a different name and birth date to it, and proceed to open credit cards, secure auto loans, student loans and even home mortgages.
Children are easy targets because they typically do not start using their information until early adulthood when applying for college, loans or their first credit cards. And by that time, the damage is already done. Child identity fraud may be under-reported by family members who may be linked to the fraud, because they often don’t realize their child has become a victim until around 18 years old. That’s why it’s so important to start monitoring your child’s credit report as early as possible.
As a parent, you can better protect your child’s identity by:
- Safeguarding your child’s personal information. Keep your child’s personal identifiable information, such as his or her Social Security card, date of birth and birth certificate, in a secure spot.
- Monitoring your child’s credit report. As soon as you get your child’s Social Security card you should start monitoring his or her report at least once a year. Request a free credit report from annualcreditreport.com.
- Keeping anti-virus software updated. Some savvy thieves create viruses designed to search computers for documents containing your child’s personal information. Make sure your computer is continually updated with the latest anti-virus software.
- Safely disposing of personal documents. Shred all papers that include your child’s personal information before you throw them out and delete computer files that you no longer need.
If your child’s credit report shows misused information, call each credit reporting company and ask that all accounts, inquiries and collection notices associated with your child’s name and Social Security number be removed.