A rash of data breaches has taught many of us to scrutinize our personal credit reports for fraudulent accounts. We don’t monitor credit reports for our young children, though, because we don’t expect them to have one.
That can give an identity thief carte blanche to use a child’s clean credit history when applying for a loan, opening credit card and bank accounts, applying for government benefits, or renting an apartment. It’s a danger that parents should be aware of, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)*.
Seven ways to protect your child’s identity
- Keep birth certificates, Social Security cards, and other identity documents in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box (Waterville branch location only).
- Don’t post birthdates or other identifying information on social media.
- Shred any documents that include your child’s personal information before you throw them away.
- Don’t share your child’s Social Security number with anyone you don’t know. If it’s requested by school or a medical provider, ask to provide an alternative identifier.
- If your child’s school asks for personally identifiable information, see if you can opt out. If not, verify that these records will be kept in a safe location and won’t be publicly available. The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) lets you opt out of sharing your child’s contact information in a student directory.
- Be on the lookout for events that might trigger identity theft. Some examples: loss of a wallet or information containing your child’s Social Security data, a security breach at the school or doctor’s office, a break-in at your home, or misappropriation by someone in the household with bad credit of their own.
- Keep your voice down at the pharmacy and doctor’s office. An eavesdropper might pick up enough information to obtain medical care using your child’s identity.
According to the State of Maine, not all states allow credit reporting agencies to let parents create a freezable credit report for a minor child. (Freezing a report is one of the best ways to prevent identity fraud, since most companies won’t open an account for an unknown customer without viewing their credit report.) Effective October 1, 2015, Maine residents were able to request that credit reporting companies generate and then freeze a report for your children under 16 years old. In your request, you will have to certify proof of authority over the child and provide the credit reporting agency with an acceptable form of identification, such as social security number, birth certificate, or state issued ID for the child whose report you wish to generate and freeze. A credit reporting agency may charge no more than $10 to process this request, which under law must be completed within 30 days. If you suspect your child is a victim of identity theft, or have received notice from a legitimate services provider that your child’s personal data has been breached, creating and freezing his or her report will be done free of charge.
Note: Families that live out of the state of Maine should check with their state to get the facts on their rules/regulations.
**”Survey of the States: Economic and Personal Finance Education in Our Nation’s Schools 2014,” Council for Economic Education (http://www.councilforeconed.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/2014-Survey-of-the-States.pdf).