As your child approaches her final years of high school, you begin the process with her of exploring colleges. After you and your daughter personally visit a number of colleges across the country, you sit down with her at the kitchen table and review mountains of material you’ve collected about the schools. You jointly decide which schools to apply to based on your mutual assessment of the programs and learning environment each of the schools offers.
Much to your delight, your daughter is accepted at all three of her top selections. The time has finally arrived to face the financial reality of the tremendous cost of a college education and you begin the process of applying for student aid, loans, grants and scholarships.
Shortly thereafter, your daughter receives a letter informing her that she has been denied financial assistance. The letters state the rejection is based upon derogatory information on her credit report. Both you and your daughter can’t understand how there can be any negative information on her credit report. In fact, you believe there should be no information at all because she has never been involved in a credit transaction of any kind during her childhood.
You and your daughter quickly sit down at the computer and go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com in order to get a free copy of her credit report. As you both review her credit report, you see strange addresses and lines of credit that don’t match anywhere your family has ever lived or creditors your family has done business with.
Slowly it dawns upon the two of you that your daughter is a victim of child identity theft.
There is a growing trend of identity thieves stealing the identities of children – even infants. In particular, the Social Security numbers of children are considered very valuable by identity thieves as parents are unlikely to check the credit reports of their children. After all, very few children are going to be involved in any type of credit transaction until sometime between the age of fourteen and eighteen at the earliest.
Because most children are not involved in credit transactions, parents never think to monitor their children’s credit reports to see if an identity thief has stolen the child’s identity to use for criminal activity. And, identity thieves know that the Social Security number of a child can grant them access to stealing the child’s identity with little chance of being detected by a parent monitoring their child’s credit report.
Often, the first time a child or parent becomes aware that the child’s Social Security number has been used to steal the identity of the child is when the child attempts their first credit transaction such as applying for financial aid, purchasing a cell phone, buying a car, or applying for a job that requires a credit check or background investigation.
It is an unfortunate reality that parents must take steps to protect their children’s identities from child identity theft. The two best ways to protect your children from child identity theft are to either monitor your children’s credit reports by obtaining a free credit report at www.AnnualCreditReport.com at least once a year or placing a credit freeze on your children’s credit files if you reside in a state where that is permissible.
For information on initiating a credit freeze on your or your family’s credit files please visit our credit freeze page.
For more information on how to combat all forms of identity theft – including child identity theft – please visit our Identity Theft Prevention, Protection and Recovery categories.