How to Prevent Child Identity Theft

Children can — and do — become the targets of identity theft. Here’s how to safeguard your kids against child identity theft.

Does your child have a credit history? This question may might seem unusual to some, but children are often targeted for identity theft.

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. And since your child might not run a credit check until they reach adulthood, the identity theft can go unnoticed for years.

Here are three tips to help you prevent child identity theft.

1. Protect Your Children's Information

Identity theft prevention starts by keeping close tabs on your child's personal data. Take measures to securely store personal data, particularly all paper and electronic documents containing your child's Social Security number. Before throwing away any sensitive documents, be sure to shred them. Keeping antivirus software up to date may also help prevent digital security breaches.

Also, as your child starts school and begins to join youth organizations, you'll encounter more forms asking for his or her Social Security number. If the local baseball league requests your child’s personal data, it may not be required. Ask how your child's information will be used and stored before sharing it with others.

2. Educate Your Children

Until they're old enough to understand how to protect themselves, children don't need access to their Social Security numbers. 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 the consequences that kind of theft could have 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 or bills in their name, they may be a victim of identity theft. Even if your child receives just junk mail, check with the three credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to see if they have 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 proof of address to manually search your child's file.

Even without warning signs, when your child is around the age of 16, you should check if they have a credit report. That way, if you discover any wrongdoing, you can correct it before they apply for a job or loan.

If your child has been a 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 each reporting agency to place a fraud alert on your child's account and contact each business where the information originated. This will help avoid further instances of fraud in the future.

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

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prevent child identify theft infographic

This information is general in nature and is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice. Although Regions believes this information to be accurate, it cannot ensure that it will remain up to date. Statements or opinions of individuals referenced herein are their own—not Regions'. Consult an appropriate professional concerning your specific situation and for current tax rules. Regions, the Regions logo, and the LifeGreen bike are registered trademarks of Regions Bank. The LifeGreen color is a trademark of Regions Bank.