To certain criminals, your kids have something much more valuable than you do. In fact, they steal the identity of 400,000 children every year. It could be someone they know or don’t know—either way, a dormant social security number is the mother lode for thieves.
Why? Because no one realizes the number has been compromised until, say, a 16-year-old goes to buy a car or an 18-year-old gets a credit card. By then, the child’s credit and identity are ruined. Identity-theft expert Adam Levin, who’s the co-founder of Credit.com and Identity Theft 911, says to watch for red flags. For example, it’s a tip-off if debt collectors call your house and use your child’s name, or if you get a credit-card offer in your child’s name.
So what can you do as a parent? Levin says to check your child’s credit. If he or she is under 13, contact each of the three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You’ll be able to find out if anyone has been using your child’s social security number. Expect some paperwork; they want to make sure you’re actually the parent. If your child is older than 13, Levin says you can check his or her credit just as you would your own by visiting annualcreditreport.com.