We’re told to monitor our credit, to protect ourselves from identity theft. But who knew to apply that same wisdom to our offspring?
Last year the number of identity theft victims reached 12.6 million, up 1 million from the previous year, according to a Javelin Strategy and Research Identity Fraud Report. About one in every 40 households with young children is being affected.
“Child identity theft is a fast-growing crime,” said Robert Chappell, author of “Child Identity Theft: What Every Parent Needs to Know.” “Criminals target children because kids have clean credit records and the theft can go undetected for years.”
He said the Federal Trade Commission “consistently states that children are 6 percent of America’s victims. This means more than 700,000 children were victimized last year.” Chappell describes how thieves will try to access personal information from school and medical records, plus stolen wallets and the Internet.
To discover if credit has been opened in your child’s name, he said parents should contact one of the credit rating agencies — Equifax, Experian or TransUnion — just as they would to check their own credit history.
Here are some other tips:
• Parents shouldn’t put their children’s Social Security number on school, medical, insurance and other forms.
• Parents shouldn’t carry their children’s birthdate or Social Security number in wallets or purses.
• Don’t overshare. Children shouldn’t place their birthdate or address on social networking sites.
• Warn children about offers they receive by phone, mail or e-mail that could be scams.
• Get on the “Do Not Call” list. Register all your phone numbers on www.donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222. □