Just when you thought the world of cybercrime couldn’t get any scarier, this alarming trend rears its head. Children are increasingly being targeted by cybercriminals. What is behind this trend, and how do you protect your children from becoming the victims of identity theft?
In many ways, kids are the perfect target for identity thieves. Their social security numbers and credit files are completely pristine, and these blank slates are exactly what cyber criminals need to take out fraudulent loans and credit cards. These scams can go undetected for a long while because it doesn’t occur to parents to check their kids’ credit ratings.
There are certain red flags of which you should be aware. If you suddenly get an influx of credit card or loan offers addressed to your child, there is likely a problem. Collections calls, IRS notices, and bills addressed to your little one are all signs that someone is maliciously using your child’s social security number.
If you suspect something is amiss, you’ll need to check your child’s credit score. This is a bit more involved than checking your personal credit score, as you’ll need to provide your child’s information plus information proving that you are the child’s guardian. Use a variety of companies (many are free) to run several credit checks; different companies draw on different databases, so using just one won’t necessarily unearth fraud.
A blank credit file means there is no credit activity related to your child’s SSN – if you come across that, consider yourself in the clear. If there is illegal activity, you can freeze your child’s credit, which will prevent any further damage. Make sure to also file a police report and gather as much documentation as you can. This will make it easier to restore your child’s credit, and may help catch the cybercriminal. Some states even allow you to create a credit report for your child and freeze it as a preventative measure.
When it comes to preventing identity theft, you need to be as careful with your children’s information as you are with your own. Protect their SSNs and personal data, especially online, and if you think something might be amiss, don’t hesitate to take the steps outlined here.