Kids Identities: Stolen

Hundreds of online businesses are finding inactive Social Security numbers online – most of which are assigned to children younger than 18 who have not begun using them yet – and selling them under different names to help people create fake credit.

The scheme could lead to significant debts for children that might be almost impossible to pay off. The Better Business Bureau is advising parents to be on the lookout for the warning signs that point to their kid’s identities being compromised or stolen.

For adults, last year alone, 8.1 million Americans became victims of ID theft, resulting in the loss of $37 billion, according to a 2011 report from Javelin Strategy & Research. While this number is high, NBC TODAY reports that it becomes harder to define how many children are truly affected by identity theft because many cases go undiscovered for years. However, an identity theft monitoring company, Debix, found an alarming 4,000 cases of damaged identities out of only 40,000 children.

Be aware of how to acquire your child’s credit report. Getting access to your child’s records is actually a different process than obtaining your own. Your child’s report cannot be retrieved using the congressionally mandated free credit report website when children are younger than 13 and even sometimes for kids 14 to 18.

Recognize the signs of trouble. Look out for red flags that suggest there could be a problem, such as your son or daughter receiving preapproved credit card offers or calls from collection agencies.

Know what to do if you suspect that your child has fallen victim. According to the Federal Trade Commission, every parent should check his or her child’s credit report on the 16th birthday. It’s not good to check it too often, but checking then leaves sufficient time to fix errors and activity before the child goes off to college and tries to obtain financial aid. If suspicious activity arises, parents must contact all three credit bureaus and request reports immediately. From there, depending on the state’s credit freeze rule, placing a credit freeze should be considered.

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