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Avoiding Identity Theft at Every Age

June 26, 2015

Anyone who has a social security number is at risk of becoming a victim of identity theft. This includes the children in your family – even babies. A lack of credit history make those not of legal age ideal targets for identity thieves who prey on clean credit reports. Fraudsters who claim children’s identities as their own often fly under the radar since credit histories of those who unlikely have a history are not frequently monitored, if at all. In these situations, fraud can continue unnoticed for years. Identity thieves take out loans they never intend to repay and establish a poor credit history with their new identity, which allows them to apply undetected for jobs or a driver’s license. The result? When the time comes, your child could be denied a drivers’ license, student or auto loans, employment or housing.

The best way to protect your children’s identity is to keep an eye out for warning signs that indicate their information may have been compromised. If your young son or daughter is suddenly receiving unusual mail, such as credit card applications, financial offers in their name or notices from the IRS about their tax filings, note this as a red flag. Investigate suspicions by asking the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion and Experian – if a report exists in your child’s name. Those companies will check for files that list the child’s name and social security number together, as well as files related only to the social security number in question. Children rarely have credit reports in their names, so if the credit bureaus have these files you know your child’s identity has been compromised. In the event this occurs, contact the authorities immediately to begin an investigation and ensure the problem is resolved in a timely manner, thus minimizing the long-term implications.

So, how can you protect your kids from fraud? The same way your might protect yourself:

  • Keep personal information and documents in a safe place.
  • Shred documents you don’t need before throwing them away.
  • Avoid carrying your child’s social security card with you.
  • Be aware of events that may put information at risk. For example, if a school, doctor’s office or business experienced a security breach that might have exposed your child’s personal record information.
  • Don’t share your child’s social security number unless it’s absolutely necessary or if you’re confident it will be protected. If you’re unsure, ask if you can use a different identifier, or only the last four digits of the social security number.

As your children get older, teach them the importance of keeping their personal information private. They should never share their name, address, phone numbers or email address with strangers or over the internet. Social security numbers and passwords or PIN numbers should not be shared, even with friends. If that information gets into the wrong hands, the time and cost required to resolve identity theft can be incredibly frustrating, stress-inducing and time-consuming. Fortunately, you can protect yourself and all members of your family by being vigilant. Monitor your own credit report annually and pass that habit along to your children. For more information about preventing and recovering from identity theft, contact your local community bank.

James Oosterman is the Vice President of Melrose Bank. He can be reached by telephone 781-665-2500, online at melrosebank.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/MelroseBank.


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