Child Identity Theft: How to Protect Your Kid’s Sensitive Information
Safety isn’t just for the playground. Learn about the warning signs of a data breach, scams and more.
Imagine your child applying for a student loan or their first credit card and getting turned down—because they already have bad credit. It happens more often than you might think.
Research firm Javelin found that 915,000 U.S. families experienced child identity fraud in 2022, a decline from 1.25 million the previous year. Children younger than 7 years old were the most likely to be victims of ID theft and ID fraud.
The reason that children make especially inviting targets for identity thieves is because blemishes on their credit history can go undetected for years. How many parents think of checking their 8-year-old’s credit report? Likely none... because they shouldn’t have a credit file in the first place.
But parents can fight back. Here’s what to know about child identity theft so you can recognize it, avoid it and be ready if it happens.
How to spot child identity theft
These red flags could be a sign that someone has stolen your child’s personal information:
- Offers for pre-approved credit cards arrive for your child in the mail.
- Bills (or even collection calls) arrive in your child’s name for services you didn’t receive.
- Claims for government benefits are rejected because your child’s Social Security number (SSN) is already in use.
- The IRS sends notifications that your child didn’t pay income taxes or that your child’s SSN was used on another return.
Ways to help prevent child identity theft
Keep these strategies in mind to help protect your child’s identity:
Consider freezing your child’s credit
A credit freeze can make it tougher for identity thieves to open accounts in your child’s name, and recent legislation made protection even easier: Parents of kids under 16 can freeze their child’s credit for free. But remember to lift the freeze before your child applies for loans or other types of credit and new accounts so they won’t get a hit to their credit scores.
Keep a tight grip on your child’s Social Security number
Just as you would safeguard your child’s birth certificate, store any documents that show the number (including the actual Social Security cards) in a secure place and shred before throwing away. Also, don’t give out your child’s SSN unless you know the person has a legitimate need for it (your accountant filing your tax returns, for example). If you’re not sure why someone would need your child’s Social Security card, ask.
Know your privacy policies to thwart fraudsters
All the places that collect personal information about your child—schools, doctor offices and even sports teams—should have privacy policies that spell out how they’ll use and protect your child’s personal information. Ensure you read and understand these policies, and ask questions if there’s anything you’re not sure about.
Get regular credit report checks for your child
If you’ve never checked to see if your child has a credit report, it’s smart to do so by at least age 16. That gives you time to fix any errors from child identity theft before your child turns 18 and starts applying for credit of their own.
A credit monitoring service like ProtectMyID can help (and AAA Members get special pricing). It comes with Child Identity Monitoring, which looks for your child’s name and Social Security number on websites known for illegally buying and selling personal information. It also scans your child’s social media accounts for signs of child identity theft and lets you know if any risks to their privacy or reputation are spotted.
What to do if child identity theft happens to you
Here are some steps to take if your child’s identity is stolen:
- If a bank account was opened or if a loan was taken out in your child’s name, contact the business or financial institution to ensure they’re aware of the fraud—then ask them to investigate and close the account.
- Notify all three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are the major credit bureaus) of the fraud and ask them to investigate as well.
- File a fraud report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and a police report with your local law enforcement agency.
If you experience child identity theft and have ProtectMyID, you’ll receive step-by-step help from a fraud resolution agent to restore the child’s identity. It’s a little peace of mind that will go a long way toward putting your life back to normal.