How to Prevent Child Identity Theft
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Does your child have a credit history? This question may seem bizarre, but the Federal Trade Commission has seen an uptick in identity theft for young victims.

With a child's Social Security number, a fraudster can open credit card and cell phone accounts, and even apply for apartments and home loans. Because it would be unusual for a young child to have a credit report or credit history, no one thinks to run a credit check until the child is grown — making him or her an ideal identity theft target.

Here are three tips to help you safeguard your child's identity until he or she is grown.

1. Protect Your Child's Social Security Number

Identity theft prevention starts by keeping close tabs on your child's personal data. As your son or daughter heads off to school and begins to join youth organizations, you'll find more forms asking for his or her Social Security number. If the local baseball league requests their personal data, it may not be required. Ask how your child's information will be used and stored before you share it with others.

Securely store all paper and electronic documents containing your child's Social Security number, and shred any hard copies before throwing them away. Keeping antivirus software up to date can also help prevent digital security breaches.

2. Educate Your Children on Identity Theft

Until they're old enough to understand how to protect them, children don't need to know their Social Security numbers or have access to their cards. Once they do have access to this information, teach them about safe Internet use and the importance of keeping personal information private. Explain that clicking on links and downloading files from unknown sources can allow hackers to access financial and personal information — and what that kind of theft could mean for your family.

3. Watch the Mail for Identity Theft Red Flags

If you receive a notice from the IRS that your child didn't pay taxes or you start to receive collection calls and bills in his or her name, he or she may be a victim of identity theft. Even if your child receives junk mail, check with the three credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to see if he or she has a credit report. The companies may require copies of your child's birth certificate listing you as parent, your child's Social Security card, your government-issued ID, and/or proof of address to manually search your child's file.  

Even without warning signs, when your child is around the age of 16, you might check to see if she or he has a credit report. That way if you discover any wrongdoing, you can correct it before he or she applies for a job or loan.

If your child has been the victim of identity theft, request in writing that all three credit reporting companies remove all accounts, account inquiries, and collection notices associated with your child's name and Social Security number. Request that each reporting agency place a fraud alert on your child's account, and contact each business where the information was used with the same request. This will help avoid further future instances of fraud.

For more information on preventing and responding to child identity theft, visit the Federal Trade Commission's consumer information portal.

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This information is general in nature and is provided for educational purposes only. Regions makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information presented. Information provided should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal, or tax advice. Regions encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.