Protecting children before and after identity theftJames BollengierSocial Security number, government-issued identification number, medical or school records
Identity theft gets so much airtime in the press that many
people get tired of hearing about it. They think that, like other
crimes, identity theft is something that happens to someone else.
The reality is that the commission of fraud through the assumption
of personal information is the fastest growing crime in the
country, and more and more people are falling prey without even
knowing it. The easiest targets for the crime are often the elderly
Most children are issued a Social Security number at birth. This
is convenient for mothers and fathers when it comes to filing
federal income taxes, but it also means that there is a valid,
government-issued identification number that no one will be
actively monitoring for 18 years. Thieves know this is typically
the scenario and have become very astute at exploitation. Because
of the rise of this crime, a generation of children is facing the
possibility of starting their financial lives thousands of dollars
in the red.
There are simple steps that can be taken to help protect your
child's financial future.
First, make sure that when the Social Security Administration
provides the child's official card, you store it in a secure lock
box or safe deposit box. Secondly, any forms that have the child's
number on them such as medical or school records should be safely
stored under lock and key, or shredded before disposal. Third,
periodically check with all three major credit repositories to
ensure that no credit has been established using the minor's
personal information. Fourth, if it is determined at any point that
the child's information has been compromised, immediately file a
police report to make sure that there is an official public record
of the crime. Fifth and perhaps most importantly, educate yourself
and your child about credit, its appropriate uses and how to read a
credit report. If you cannot determine what is in a report, you
cannot determine which accounts belong to you and which do not.
Finally, there is one other aspect of child identity theft that is
unique. Many cases are perpetrated by close family members who have
access and opportunity. There can be a great range of emotions
associated with this type of crime, since few are eager to
prosecute someone they love on a felony charge. This puts a huge
burden on the family as a whole to help the helpless in monitoring
their histories and keeping those less scrupulous individuals from
taking advantage of the situation.
Identity theft of a minor is not the perfect crime. As
illustrated above, there are a multitude of precautions Americans
can take to help safeguard the financial futures of the young. With
due diligence and the right amount of knowledge, it is a problem
that can be managed and mitigated.
James Bollengier is director of client services for RMCN Inc., a McKinney,
Texas-based company that specializes in credit repair, restoration
and education. He can be reached at (888) 469-7372, ext. 253 or