Milwaukee, Wis., June 21, 2011 –
The first tell-tale sign that a child has been the victim of identity theft could be a credit card solicitation in the child’s name arriving in the mailbox, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns.
Identity thieves comb the Internet to find inactive Social Security numbers, many of them assigned to children. Companies sell the numbers under different names. Thieves then use the numbers to establish fake credit and rack up significant debts. The debts could mar a child’s credit record later in life. Creditors may try to collect the debts, too.
“Identity theft is a serious problem for adults, but it’s even more frightening that it can affect young children,” said Randall Hoth, Wisconsin BBB president and CEO. “Parents should take precautions to ensure the safety of their child’s identity and credit.”
Last year, 8.1 million American adults became victims of ID theft, with losses totaling $37 billion, according to a report from Javelin Strategy and Research. While information on child ID theft is scarce, Debix, an ID theft monitoring company, checked records for 40,000 children and found that 4,000 records had been tainted.
The BBB advises parents to be on the lookout for signs of child ID theft:
- Find out how to check your child’s credit report. Many reports for children under 13 are unavailable from the free credit report website, http://annualcreditreport.com. The easiest way to check is to ask TransUnion, one of the three credit reporting agencies, for your child’s report. If there is no report, then odds are good that your child is in the clear. If not – or if you have other reasons to believe your child has been a victim – you should get reports from the other two bureaus, Experian and Equifax.
- Recognize signs of trouble. Calls for your children from collection agencies or letters offering them credit cards are common red flags that indicate a child’s identity may have been stolen.
- Know what to do if you suspect your child is a victim. Every parent should check his or her child’s credit report on the child’s 16th birthday. While it isn’t a good idea to check it too often, families should check reports in time to fix errors and remove fraudulent activity before their children apply for college and seek financial aid. If you find suspicious activity, contact all three credit bureaus and request a report immediately. If your state allows it, you can request that a credit freeze be placed on the child’s report immediately.
For more information on securing your identity or to check a company’s BBB Business Review
, go to www.bbb.org
or call 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), 920-734-4352 (NE Wisconsin) or 800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin).