North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice
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You’re never too young for identity theft

3/21/2014

By Attorney General Roy Cooper

Parents work hard to keep their kids safe, but there’s a potential threat to your child’s future you may not have even thought of: identity theft. While many adults are aware of the threat of identity theft and the need to protect their personal information, they may not realize that children can also be victims.

Though most children don’t yet have credit reports, they’re still at risk for having their identity stolen. If identity thieves get your child’s Social Security Number, they can apply for loans, file for government benefits, and open fraudulent bank accounts or credit cards in your child’s name.

A child whose identity has been stolen and misused may not know it until he or she becomes an adult and tries to get a loan for school or take out a credit card. By then, the damage may be done, leaving your child with a bad credit report just as they’re starting out on their own.

Know the warning signs that your child’s identity may have been stolen.  Watch out for:

  • Letters from the IRS saying your child owes income taxes.
  • Collection calls and bills for services your child didn’t apply for or receive.
  • Your child gets turned down for government benefits because their Social Security Number is already in use with another account.

Spot any signs that your child is a victim of identity theft? Take action immediately. Check with one of the three major credit reporting bureaus to see if your child has a credit report. Credit bureaus don’t usually keep files on children under age 13, but in some rare instances a child may have a legitimate reason to have a credit report.   You’re entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three agencies at annualcreditreport.com.

If your child has no credit report, the credit bureaus won’t have records for him or her. If there is difficulty locating your child’s credit report when you try to check it, your child most likely doesn’t have one, which is good.

But if your child does have a credit report, review it carefully. Request a fraud alert from the credit bureau if you spot anything on your child’s report that shouldn’t be there. If your child has a credit report but there isn’t anything troubling on it, it’s probably a good idea to freeze it to prevent problems.  You can get a security freeze for free online under North Carolina law. Parents or legal guardians can only freeze existing credit reports.

You can also take simple steps to protect your child from becoming a victim of identity theft. Take extra care with documents that contain your child’s personal information.  Store them somewhere safe and never carry your child’s Social Security card in your wallet. If someone requests your child’s Social Security Number, ask why it is needed, whether or not it’s truly necessary and how it will be kept safe.