Child identity theft is on the rise: More than 1 million kids were victims of identity theft in 2018 alone. In fact, according to Experian, child identity theft can affect approximately 25% of kids before they turn 18. This type of crime can go undetected for years.
The good news is that government agencies around the country are providing tips on identifying the potential risks associated with child identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is taking steps to prevent it, including creating tip sheets to tackle identity theft. The FTC has also created a separate page with two important lists: documents you should keep and documents you should shred. Below you’ll find suggestions for documents you should shred.
Documents Containing Personal Information
Identity thieves don’t discriminate between adults and kids. They are on a constant lookout for documents containing personal information and your kids’ date of birth and social security number (SSN) are at a high risk of getting stolen. You need to shred all documents that contain this valuable information.
Other personal information of your children that you should protect includes their full name, home address, school address, and, if it applies, their cell phone number.
Medical and School-Related Documents
Any mail you receive regarding your kids’ school or medical records should go into the shred pile if it’s of no use to you long term. Similarly, if you receive school applications, letters from teachers, field-trip authorization letters, or extra copies of your kids’ birth certificates, make sure you shred them.
You should also contact your child’s school to ask about its directory information policy so you know how far-reaching your contact information goes.
Other Useful Child Identity Theft Prevention Tips
Shredding documents with your children’s personal information is critical, but their identity can still be stolen. Fortunately, there are warning signs. Here’s what to watch for according to the Identity Theft Resource Center:
- Credit card discounts and offers addressed to your children
- Bills addressed to your children
- Phone calls from collection agencies asking to speak with your children
- Receiving a notice from the IRS that your child owes income taxes
If you suspect that your child’s identity has been stolen, follow the guidelines provided by the Identity Theft Resource Center. This includes only requesting a credit report for your child if you have reason to believe it’s necessary. If it is, get in touch with all three national credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
When you receive the credit reports for your child, review them carefully to see if there is evidence of identity theft. Understand, though, that the information you are seeing reflects a specific time period and does not guarantee that suspicious activity will not occur in the future in the name of your child.
Request a Credit Freeze
If you discover that your child has been a victim of identity theft, you’ll want to file a fraud report with the FTC and contact businesses where your child’s information was misused and ask them to close the fraudulent accounts.
In addition, consider placing a freeze on your child’s credit. This ensures that thieves cannot continue to use your child’s identity. You’ll have the ability to lift the freeze whenever you want.
Just as you do for yourself, think prevention. If you properly manage your children’s personal information and shred sensitive documents on an ongoing basis, it will help protect them from identity theft. And when they reach the appropriate age, talk to your kids about the problem of identity theft and the steps they need to take to protect themselves as an adult.Back to Blog