According to a news release from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, more than half of child identity-theft victims are under the age of 12. A 9-year-old was in debt collection. The largest debt was nearly three-quarters of a million dollars. A 2-year-old was in bankruptcy. And the youngest victim was 5 months old.
As usual, it begins with the Social Security
number. It will be years before a child applies for credit, or goes to college or needs any government benefits, so the theft might not be noticed.
Your child might be a victim of identity theft if you receive bills in your child's name, or tax papers, traffic tickets or lien notices, or if your child can't get a drivers license because the number is already being used. A pre-approved credit-card offer isn't necessarily a red flag unless accompanied by other indications. (Unless you have strong reason to suspect there's been identity theft, don't check your child's credit, as this opens a credit report.)
Go to the Identity Theft Resource Center (www.idtheftcenter.org) and put "child" in the search box. Look for Fact Sheet 120. (Don't miss Fact Sheet 120B -- A Guide for Parents.)
According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, here are some ways to keep your child safe from identity theft:
-- If you open a bank account with a child, opt out of all marketing lists.
-- Object to giving your child's Social Security number when registering for school.
It might be optional, or there might be a way to protect the number. Ask hard questions.
-- At the doctor's office, ask questions about how the information is to be safeguarded.
-- When your teen begins to drive, opt for the random number instead of Social Security number for the license.
-- When you teen fills out job applications, teach him or her to leave the Social Security number blank. A would-be employer doesn't need that information. If your child is actually hired, only the bookkeeper who fills out W-2 forms at the end of the year needs the information, not a shift supervisor in a burger place.
David Uffington regrets that he cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Write to him in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mail to email@example.com.
(c) 2011 King Features Synd., Inc.