How to Protect Your Children Against Identity Theft
My 25-year-old daughter recently sent me a notice that she received from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) stating that her social security number, fingerprints and other personal information were included in a “malicious cyber intrusion,” which resulted in the theft of background information records.
Needless to say, she was a little freaked out, and so was I. She is a young adult and we have had several chats about being careful using social media and protecting her personal information.
The IRS as well as the OPM have breach procedures in place and notify individuals when there is a risk of identity theft or other adverse effects from data breaches. They are also required to follow federal authority to disclose such occurrences.
That being said, you are probably aware of your own risk of identity theft and maybe have taken some precautions to guard your own personal and financial data, but what about your minor children? Identity theft on a child can go on for years undiscovered. Experts say children represent an emerging market for identity theft thieves who steal their social security numbers knowing that these numbers may not be used for years. Most victims do not even know about it until they are young adults and find their credit rating compromised, or are rejected for student loans, jobs or from renting a place to live.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon conducted a study on child identity theft and found that 10 percent of children are victims as compared with less than 1 percent of adults. They analyzed more than 800,000 records. The loud and clear message imparted at a recent identity theft conference sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is that this fraud has a systemic financial impact and we have an ethical, moral and legal duty to help our children have a future that they can create for themselves.
What Are the Warning Signs That Your Child’s Credit History May Have Been Compromised?
- Your child is denied a bank account or a driver’s license
- Credit card and loan offers addressed to your child
- Collection calls or bills addressed to your child
- A notice from the IRS that your child owes income taxes or was claimed as a dependent on another return
What You Can Do Before and After a Possible Data Breach?
Check your child’s credit history. There are three recognized companies that can assist with this process:
- Equifax (1-800-525-6285)
- Experian (1-866-200-6020)
Repair the Damage
- Contact the credit reporting company and ask them to remove any files that have your child’s social security number listed.
- Place a fraud alert with the applicable entity on the credit report.
- File a fraud report with the FTC on line or call 877-438-4338.
Prevention and Protection
- Find a safe location for papers and electronic records.
- Cross shred documents with personal information.
- Don’t share your child’s SSN unless you know and trust the other party.
- Ask at your child’s school or medical office how your child’s information is collected, stored, used and thrown away.
- Be aware of events that may put information at risk like a break in at your child’s school, doctor’s office or in your home.
- Before your child turns, 16 get a credit report. If there are errors due to fraud, you will have time to correct before your child applies for a job, a loan for tuition or needs to rent an apartment.
- Teach your children to keep personal information private when they are online. Social networking sites can be a goldmine for identity theft thieves.
Any taxpayer who believes they are at risk of identity theft due to lost or stolen personal information should contact the IRS immediately so the agency can take action to secure their tax account. Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490 Ext. 245. You will be asked to complete the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039, and follow the instructions on the back of the form based on their situation.
The IRS has issued guidance for actual or potential identity theft, phone scam and phishing victims.
- Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft
- Publication 5027, Identity Theft Information for Taxpayers (PDF)
- Data Breach: Tax-Related Information for Taxpayers
- Instructions for Requesting Copy of Fraudulent Returns
- Publication 4524, Security Awareness For Taxpayers (PDF)
- IRS Identity Theft Victim Assistance: How It Works