child identity theftWith tax season underway, many of us are concerned about tax ID theft. With major data breaches in the last year, including Scottrade, Anthem, T-Mobile, and even the IRS, the concern about identity (ID) theft is big. From January 25 – 29, 2016, the FTC is hosting a Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week that aims to educate consumers about what to look for and what to do when they become victims.  It is important to understand child identity theft is real too.

Many parents don’t realize that they also need to watch out for child identity theft. Their children might have their identities stolen, and you might not even realize it until the first time your child applies for a loan or a job.

Signs that Your Child’s ID Might Have Been Stolen

Some ID thieves like to target children because we tend to be less vigilant about their credit histories. However, you do need to be on the lookout. Some of the indications that your child’s identity might have been stolen include:

  • Denied a bank account

    You might want to open a bank account with your child to help him or her learn about money management. However, when you go to open the account, if a credit check is run, you might find that your child’s history has been destroyed by someone else. This can be especially disappointing if your child attempts to open his or her own bank account upon turning 18.

  • Bills and credit offers addressed to your child

    While honest mistakes are sometimes made, the reality is that if your child receives a great deal of mail that seems aimed at adults, particularly collections notices and credit card offers, this is a pretty strong indication that someone has stolen his or her identity and has been getting credit in his or her name.

  • IRS notice of taxes due

    When you receive a notice that your child owes money in taxes, that’s an indication that his or her Social Security number might be in use by someone getting it for work purposes.

Another thing to be aware of is if someone else claims your child as a dependent. This type of tax fraud is one in which someone tries to get a tax credit, such as the Earned Income Credit or the Child Tax Credit using your child’s Social Security number and claiming him or her as a dependent. That can make it difficult for you to claim your own child as a dependent and result in a number of headaches for you as you try to reclaim your refund.

Protect Against Child Identity Theft

Take steps now to protect your child from ID theft. You can do this by limiting who gets sensitive information about your child, as well as destroying documents with personal information. You also need to teach your child safe online habits once he or she starts using social media.

You can check your child’s credit report with the three major bureaus. If there is no credit report available, then your child’s identity is probably safe — unless a fraudster is using the information to steal your tax refund. If you do find that your child already has a credit report, take steps to contact the bureaus and correct the information, and place a freeze on the account.

In a world where ID theft is increasingly common, it’s important for you to protect yourself, and your children.