According to a report by the research firm, Javelin Strategy & Research, 11.1 million adults were the victim of identity theft in 2009 in the United States, and the total annual amount lost to fraud was $54 billion.
Children are often also the victim of identity theft.
In fact, more than 70,000 complaints of child identity theft were received last year by the Federal Trade Commission, and the reports of incidents have more than doubled in the last three years alone.
Why Children Are the Victim of Identity Theft
Many people do not realize that that credit card companies do not have an easy way to verify the age of an applicant especially if someone has not applied for credit before. Most credit card applications simply ask for your date of birth without providing any proof. Children and teens are a prime target for identity theft because they have perfectly clean credit records.
Children make easy identity theft since parents do not usually check their children’s credit reports. A crime can go undetected for a very long time which can compound the problem.
Warning Signs of Child Identity Theft
If your child has been the victim of identity theft, it may take you quite a while to find out about it. Many parents realize the news when they are rejected while attempting to open a savings account or 529 College Savings Plan for the child because of his or her bad credit.
Or, parents may find out the terrible news when pre-approved credit card offers, bills, or financial statements are received in the child’s name. These should be red flags for a parent that there could potential be a problem.
How To Freeze Your Child’s Credit Report
You should check your child’s credit report, but that may be slightly more difficult than the parent might imagine. An adult can go online to one of the three credit bureaus and order a credit report. But, if you want to request your child’s credit report, you have to send that request to the bureaus in writing.
Children do not actually have formal credit report if they are under the age of 18, but the credit bureaus will be able to provide you with information on your child if they are the victim of child identity theft and have a credit history. One way to combat child identity theft is to freeze your child’s credit report.
Unlike a fraud alert that requests lenders to double check with a loan applicant before issuing new debt, a credit freeze or also known as a security freeze will not allow any potential lender access to your credit report at all without your permission.
Therefore, new credit will be prevented from being issued. Placing a credit freeze on a child’s credit report as early as possible will prevent child identity theft.
The Drawback Of A Credit Freeze
A credit freeze is designed to prevent a credit reporting company from releasing your credit report without your consent to a new lender. However, you should be aware that using a credit freeze can delay you being approved for new credit if you really are applying for a new loan. You have to notify the three different credit bureaus individual in order to allow the release of your credit information.
With a credit freeze, you will have to turn the freeze off and back on when applying for new loan, credit, or mortgages. You can also run into trouble with other financial transactions that request a credit report such as applying for new insurance, government services, rental housing, employment, investment, license, cellular telephone, or even turning on new utilities. While a credit freeze provides excellent protection against identity theft for an adult or a child, you should not forget that it is very restrictive.
Placing a credit freeze on a child’s credit report as early as possible will help prevent your child from becoming a victim of child identity theft. More children than ever have found themselves the victim of identity theft and many are at the hands of a close family friend or relative. But, a parent can help prevent identity theft of their child by taking preventative measures such as freezing the child’s credit report.
Hank Coleman is the founder of numerous financial websites and a staff writer for several blogs such as CreditScore.net as well. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, a Master’s in Finance, and is currently studying for his Certified Financial Planning (CFP) credentials. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @HankColeman.