Recent hacks at
Hello Kitty that exposed the personal information of millions of
children are great reminders of the need to protect children from identity
theft. But what exactly is child identity theft, and why is it so important to
What is child identity theft?
By definition, it is
the unauthorized use of a child’s personally identifiable information (PII),
such as their Social Security number (SSN), name and/or address. It is
incredibly dangerous because a child’s identity is rarely monitored and theft
is usually not detected for years. Child identity theft can destroy a child’s
financial identity before they even have the ability to establish credit for
Who targets children?
Here’s one example of child
identity theft: a thief can use a child’s PII (e.g. a SSN) along with PII of
another person (e.g. a name or address) to create an entirely new identity.
Known as synthetic identity theft, thieves using this highly-sophisticated type
of theft will build credit and make large purchases, leaving debt in a victim’s
name since the new identity is attached to a SSN.
Worse than a stranger stealing a child’s identity is the unauthorized use of a
child’s SSN by a person of trust, such as a parent or guardian. In these cases,
the adult typically has poor credit and is using the child’s information for
accounts, such as utilities. While usually well-intentioned, if the adult does
not pay on the account as obligated, the debts will reflect on the child’s
credit report until it is reported as fraudulent activity.
How can you identify child identity theft?
to IdentityTheft.gov, you can contact the credit bureaus and ask each to run a
“SSN-only” inquiry. This will determine if the child’s SSN is in use under any
name. You should also closely monitor any mail that arrives in your child’s
name. Children can also be protected under a family plan with
EZShield Fraud Protection.
How can you resolve child identity theft?
states that “because a minor cannot legally agree to
contracts, any debts on your child’s credit report are fraudulent by definition.”
Thus, if you suspect your child has become a victim of identity theft, you will
need to “send each credit reporting agency the
Minor’s Status Declaration form. It provides proof that your child is a
minor. Include a letter with the form that asks for all information associated
with your child’s name or SSN to be removed.”
ACT NOW to prevent child identity theft!
or guardians should secure children’s PII in a safe or locked file cabinet.
Always question when this information is required (e.g. school enrollment) and
ask how it will be safeguarded. Never give out a child’s PII unless absolutely
necessary. Also, consider
freezing your child’s credit profile until they are of age to manage
their credit responsibly.
To learn more about SSNs for children, visit the Social Security Administration: