Let’s play pretend. Imagine Johnny: an adorable little baby with great parents and a bright future. If little Johnny was running, jumping and sparking up eloquent conversations before his first birthday, his parents would probably be applauding and uploading videos to YouTube. Behold the toddler prodigy.
But if the same little tike had three credit cards, car loans and a mortgage, he probably wouldn’t evoke the same reaction (unless, of course, he was on TV commercial). This would instead be a bright red flag waving vigorously. And that bright future? It’s suddenly looking a whole lot dimmer.
Children are 51 times more likely to have their identities stolen than adults. And 26% of children targeted are under 11 years old.
What’s the appeal? A clean credit history. A clean criminal background. And the unlikelihood of getting caught. Were you checking your credit score at age 10?
It’s the perfect situation for identity thieves. They can wrack up years of credit, debt, employment history and more without getting caught—often not until the child applies for his first credit card.
And it’s not an easy thing to fix. The victim could be rejected for credit, student loans, credit cards, rental applications and more. Thus, creating a huge hurdle at every pivotal point of young Johnny’s life. It could take years to fully recover from all the damage.
Mom to the Rescue
You’d think that such a large threat would spark great interest in protecting the future financial welfare of our children, and that there’d be some type of system in place to monitor the use of children’s Social Security numbers. Unfortunately, there isn’t. It’s up to the parents to keep their child protected.
Besides enrolling your child in identity theft protection (ahem), there are a few other steps to take.
1. Check your child’s credit report every year until they turn 18. No report is a good report.
2. Know the warning signs. If your child starts receiving pre-approved credit cards or other suspicious offerings, identity theft may have occurred.
3. Be cautious with your child’s personal information. Avoid using your child’s Social Security whenever possible, don’t post too many details on social media and be careful leaving information around. Many identity thieves know their victims.