Child identity theft occurs when someone fraudulently uses a child’s identity for personal gain.
The imposter may be a family member, friend or a stranger. He or she may use the child’s name and Social Security number to open new accounts for cell phones, utilities, credit cards and even mortgages.
Imposters may get away with using a child's identity for years, because children typically do not try to check or access credit. As a result, child identity theft usually is not discovered until the child applies for college financial aid, a car loan or employment.
The Identity Theft Resource Center encourages parents to watch for warning signs:
- Your child receives pre-approved credit card offers but has never had a bank account.
- Collection calls, bills or credit cards come in your child’s name.
- A person who knows your child’s Social Security number (SSN) has suddenly “found” a lot of money.
- Your child’s name appears on the caller ID when someone else calls you.
- The IRS sends notice that your child’s name or SSN are listed on another tax return.
- Your child receives notice about a traffic violation or tax lien.
- Your child is denied government assistance because benefits already are assigned to the child’s SSN.
To check for possible child identity theft, parents or court-appointed guardians should attempt to obtain a credit report on the child's 16th birthday, using www.AnnualCreditReport.com or by writing to the three main credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
The three credit reporting companies have specific information on child identity theft and programs to help parents determine if their child’s personal information is being used.
A credit report should not exist until the child’s first credit application as an adult. If parents do find an erroneous credit report, they should contact the credit reporting bureaus immediately to place a fraud alert on the child’s credit report.
The credit reporting companies request that parents not order a report on a child unless they have a reason to do so. If a parent has no reason to suspect child identity theft, multiple inquiries will only cause problems.
Identity theft information —Identity Theft Resource Center
Check your free annual credit report
File a consumer complaint — Ohio Attorney General's Office
Request a free Consumer Awareness Workshop — Ohio Attorney General's Office
Sign up to receive the Consumer Advocate e-Newsletter — Ohio Attorney General's Office