Has your toddler been getting preapproved credit card offers in the mail? IRS notices? Calls from collection agencies? If so, they’re the victim of child identity theft, a troubling crime in which the offender exploits your child’s social security number to commit fraud. Because a child’s SSN is a blank slate, the perpetrator can easily take out loans, apply for credit cards, and buy pricey items such as cars, houses, and jewelry.
This type of identity theft may fly under the radar for years, while debts soar and credit is ravaged. The victim may only learn about the theft when they’re older and get rejected while applying for something such as a car loan. Here’s how criminals build a false identity from your child’s personal information.
1. The Criminal Has Used Your Child’s Identity to Rake in a Tax Refund
If you claim your child as a dependent on your tax return and are defrauded, you’ll be in for a nasty surprise. The IRS will send a notice that someone has already claimed a dependent with that Social Security number. Your child may also receive an IRS letter accusing them of not paying their taxes.
2. Your Child Receives Suspicious Mail
Your child has no credit history. So, if they’re receiving preapproved credit card offers, bills, and bank correspondence, it’s likely that their identity has been stolen. Their data may have been used to open various accounts, get credit cards, and apply for loans. By using your child’s pristine SSN, the perpetrators can easily get approved for any of these things.
3. Debt Collectors Are Calling
Your child has never owed money, so why are debt collectors calling them? It makes no sense that a toddler or an infant would have any type of debt! This clearly indicates identity theft.
4. Your Child is Denied Government Benefits
This could indicate that a criminal is receiving your child’s benefits after fraudulently submitting their Social Security number. Money that is rightfully your child’s is being channeled into someone else’s account.
5. Your Child’s Medical Information Is Stolen
Criminals may steal your child’s medical data to pilfer healthcare for themselves or someone else.
6. Your Child’s Social Security Information Is Stolen at Job Fairs
Fraudsters sometimes stage fake job fairs in order to commit identity theft. They lure teenagers into giving up personal information with the promise of a potential job. Using phony employment applications, they steal unused Social Security numbers for their own unlawful purposes.
7. The Criminal May Be a Family Member
It’s hard to fathom that one family member would do this to another, but it can be an act of financial desperation to save themselves from foreclosure, credit card debt, loan default, utility shutoff, or other crises. With close proximity to the child, they have easy access to their solution. They may also think they’re above suspicion since they’re a trusted relative.
8. Your Child is Questioned About Their Employment
The IRS, Social Security Administration, and other government organizations request confirmation that your child has a job, even though they never HAD a job.
9. So, What Can You Do?
If you suspect that your child is a victim of identity theft, you should quickly:
• Contact Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion
Get in touch with each of these credit report agencies and ask them to remove collection notices, accounts, and account inquiries connected to your child’s name.
• Request a Fraud Alert
Contact any one of the three bureaus and ask that a fraud alert is put on your child’s file. Confirm that they will contact the two other bureaus with this information.
• File a Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and Your Police Department
Send your report to the FTC at www.ftc.gov/complaint. Tax or medical fraud should be reported to the police.
Last year in Buffalo, New York, eight people were apprehended who stole children’s Social Security numbers and paid a staggering $420,000 in fraudulent spending sprees. It’s frightening that anyone would defraud children — even toddlers. If you notice any of the red flags above, take action immediately to protect YOUR investment — your child.