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An identity theft that can go undetected for years

Here’s how you can help protect your children or grandchildren from credit fraud.

You know you have to protect yourself from identity theft. But did you know your child could be susceptible to the same scam?

Every U.S. child is issued a Social Security number shortly after birth. If a scammer steals it, they can open lines of credit, apply for government benefits, buy homes and cars and obtain a fake driver’s license. Just imagine receiving a notice that your 3-year-old’s overdue account at a department store or online retailer is going into collection!

This kind of identity theft is especially worrisome because parents often don’t learn that their child’s information has been used for fraudulent purposes until years later – typically, when the child attempts to get a college loan, applies for their first job or tries to buy a car.

Here are four warning signs that your child or grandchild may be a victim of identity theft:

  1. The child has a credit report. (Most children under 18 don’t have one unless their parent has named them as an authorized user on a credit card.)
  2. You or the child are turned down for government benefits because they are being paid to another account with the child’s SSN.
  3. You get collection calls or bills for products or services you didn’t order.
  4. The IRS notifies you (in writing – never by phone) that a child didn’t pay income taxes or that their SSN was used on a tax return.

But there are things you can do. Here are five ways you can help protect your child or grandchild from identity theft:

  1. Ask the national credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) to create a credit report for the child and then immediately put a freeze on it. You can do this at no cost.
  2. Get a free credit report annually from each bureau at annualcreditreport.com. Stagger them a few months apart so less time passes between reviews. This will help detect any credit fraud.
  3. Never give the child’s SSN to anyone. Instead, use another identifier – or just the last four digits of their SSN.
  4. Place all records containing the child’s personal information in a secure location.
  5. Shred all documents containing the child’s information before throwing them away.

Don’t assume a child’s SSN is safe just because they are young. A scammer could still use it fraudulently. If you have grandchildren, share this article with their parents, as well as others family and friends who have children.

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