Let’s talk about a problem that often is not discussed—your child’s or grandchild’s vulnerability to identity theft. This crime can often go unnoticed until your child applies for their first credit card, a school loan, or a job. Sadly, many times this crime is perpetrated by a family member.
I was told this awful story. A 19-year-old male went to apply for his first credit card, shortly after becoming married. He was denied credit. When he ordered a credit report he was shocked to discover that his mother, who had left the family when he was 10 and been estranged, had used his Social Security number to open credit accounts which were all in default. He was left with the long process of trying to clear his name.
Approximately 6 weeks following the birth of a child, from information provided in the hospital at birth, your child will receive their Social Security card in the mail. If this information can be stolen, credit can be opened in the name of a child. Unknown to many is the fact that credit issuers & credit reporting agencies may not have a way to verify the age of an applicant and information provided is taken at face value.
Here are some reminders for parents and grandparents:
- Never carry the Social Security number of a child in a purse/wallet;
- When registering a child for school, ask if providing a SS# is optional and what would happen if you don’t provide it;
- Teach your children to never give out personal information over the phone, on any Internet site, or to any organization;
- If you need to show a Social Security card for a child to participate in sports, provide the card then return it to a safe place. If a photocopy is needed, show the original card and place the photocopy in a sealed envelope. Write your name in colored ink across the flap of the envelope so when it is returned you can tell if it has ever been opened;
- Suppress the credit of your child (Information Sheet—Addendum)
Newborns receive a Social Security number weeks following their birth. Social Security Numbers are the key to obtaining credit. The three major credit reporting agencies do not know us by name but rather by our Social Security numbers. Consequently, should ID thieves fraudulently obtain your child’s Social Security number, they can open credit in a child’s name. Unfortunately this information is usually not discovered until the child applies for credit the first time or applies for a job for the first time.
You may be able to suppress the credit of your children until they reach the age of 18 (the age where children are considered legally capable of enforcing a contract). Suppressing their credit will block access to your child’s credit report and can be an effective means of preventing some forms of Identity Theft.
To suppress the credit of a child, send a request in writing by Certified Mail, with ‘Return Receipt,’ to each of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies:
Include the following in your request:
- State that you are writing on behalf of your child, as the legal guardian, list the child’s Social Security number and include a photocopy of your government issued ID;
- Provide your child’s full name, with middle initial and generation,
such as Jr.;
- Enclose a copy of the child’s Birth Certificate;
- Ask for credit suppression until the child’s 18TH birthday.
Four to six weeks after your request, obtain one copy of your child’s credit report on www.annualcreditreport.com to ensure that the credit has been suppressed.
Source: District Attorney Scott Storey, Office of Jefferson/Gilpin Counties, Colorado