Child Identity Theft - What Parents Need to Know
Protecting your kids from child identity theft is probably just as important as protecting your own identity. The reason for this is that it can be years or even decades before your child discovers that his identity was compromised or stolen and by then, his credit and good name could be ruined. This was recently made clear to me when my son's birth certificate and passport were stolen from the DMV, where he went with my husband to get his driver's permit. With a last name like Ramirez
, you can imagine how thrilled the thief must have been, particularly if he happened to be an illegal immigrant from a spanish-speaking country.
When a child identity theft occurs, it is done for the personal gain of the perpetrator. There are two types of identity theft: financial and criminal. Financial identity theft is when someone steals your child's social security number to open up a line of credit (Contrary to popular belief, credit issuers do not usually know the age of the applicant. This is why it's easy for thieves to open up credit with stolen identities from minors).
Criminal identity theft is when someone uses your child's I.D. to get a driver's license or to hide their true identity when caught in the commission of a crime.
Both types of identity theft can have real repercussions for a child. While child identity theft can be committed by a stranger, often, it is committed by a family member (typically, an estranged parent) or someone known to the family.
How to Stop Identity Theft
What I learned from the incident with my son is that a stolen birth certificate and altered passport are enough for a thief to get a social security card in the child's name. Concerned about this, I went to the Passport Authority to cancel my son's passport. As I filed the paperwork and talked with the representative, she told me that she protects the identity of everyone in her family and advised me to do the same.
I canceled my son's passport, but when I filed a police report, the officer told me that this was not enough. Canceling a passport means the thief can't use the passport to enter the country, but they can still use it as identification within the United States.
Further if the thief used my son's passport when caught in the commission of a crime, my son could end up with arrest warrants in his name. (This would be a case of criminal child identity theft.) At the thought of my teenager being pulled over by a big, burly cop who thought he had warrants out for his arrest, I felt a growing concern in the pit of my stomach.
As I traded stories with the female police officer, she confided that when her baby was born six months earlier, she decided not to list a birth announcement in the paper because she knew that thieves use this information to obtain birth certificates of newborn babies for the purposes of child identity theft.
There are companies that guarantee that no one will steal your identity (or those of your children) and back this up with a one million dollar guarantee. For a little over $200 for the entire year, I purchased the service for everyone in my family.
It's important to emphasize that most child identity theft victims don't discover the crime until damage has already been done. Knowing that the victim won't find out until he applies for credit or gets pulled over by a police officer, identity thieves prey on children. Young people whose identity has been stolen may be denied a driver's license, entry into college, credit, housing or a job. They can even be incarcerated for crimes they did not commit, until they can clear their name.
For a low fee you can protect everyone in your family and ensure their good credit and good names. Since the fastest growing targets of identity crimes are children, this is a preventative measure that is well worth your consideration.
Learn more about how to stop identity theft: