When was the last time you checked your child’s credit report? If you’re like most people, you’ve probably never thought about monitoring your child’s credit, since they aren’t old enough to have credit in the first place. (And if you’re like us, we teach our kids to live a debt-free lifestyle anyway.) But no matter their age, you really should keep a close eye on your child’s credit files. Believe it or not, children are often the target of identity thieves. Their credit is spotless–in fact, it is non-existent. No one regularly monitors a child’s credit, making them very easy prey for thieves. I’ve known it to happen to several people that I know personally. As recently as 2009 reports show that upwards of 400,000 children a year are the victims of identity theft.
What can you do to protect your child from identity theft? Here’s a few tips:
1. Be very careful who you give your child’s social security number to. Quite often everyone from the school lunch forms to the doctor’s office will ask for it, but they don’t really need it unless you’re applying for federal services. And if you do need to give it, make sure you give it to a trusted adult directly. We all know how many papers get lost in a child’s backpack.
2. Monitor where the social security number is being used. Most thieves get it from medical records, mail tampering, a search online or even from a lost wallet. Quite often when someone asks for the social security number, they’re only using it as an ID number. I refuse to give my children’s numbers out in these cases, instead insisting on using some form of alternate ID number.