Child identity theft by a parent may not only wreck a kid’s credit, but also take mom or dad out of the running for Parent of the Year.
How common is child identity theft by a parent? That’s hard to say. There are few recent statistics.
One thing’s for sure: When a parent steals a child’s identity, it turns a traditional parental role on its head. Instead of protecting the child, the parent could be doing the child great harm.
Here’s what you’ll learn about in this article:
Facts about child identity theft by a parent
- What happens when a child gets older if they’ve been a victim of identity theft by a parent or guardian.
- Steps to take if you suspect a parent is stealing their child’s identity
Facts about child identity theft by a parent
A quick definition: Child identity theft is a crime that occurs when someone steals a young person’s personal information and uses it fraudulently. The data may include name, address, date of birth and Social Security number.
Why would a parent steal their own child’s identity? It could be out of financial desperation. A parent who has a poor history with borrowed money may have trouble getting such things as a loan, credit card, housing or job. The motivation to take on a child’s identity might include paying the electric bill, buying a big-screen TV, or betting on horses at the track.
A child has a blank credit history, and that makes it easier to open new accounts such as credit cards, and then run up bills. If the parent uses a child’s identity and leaves a trail of bad debts, the child may pay later financially and psychologically.
What happens when a child gets older if they’ve been a victim of identity theft by a parent
A parent may be able to conceal identity theft of a child for a while, but probably not forever. Years later, the child—now a young adult—might apply for a student loan or a first job and discover something ominous: a damaged credit report.
Victims of child identity theft faces obstacles as young adults. They may be blocked from financial options such as opening a checking account or obtaining a credit card. And they may face the added challenge of reclaiming their identities and setting their financial records straight.
But it doesn’t stop there. A son or daughter is likely to pay an emotional cost. The child might feel betrayed, violated, guilty and isolated.
Steps to take if you suspect a parent is stealing their child’s identity
Child identity theft by a parent can be an easy crime to commit. After all, parents have free access to their kids’ personal information.
And when they steal the identity, they probably won’t trumpet the news. Even a relative who is aware of the crime may hesitate to turn in a family member.
The child’s other parent—as well as friends and family—may spot clues that child identity theft has occurred. Here are a few red flags:
- New-found money: A parent who has persistent financial problems suddenly appears to have plenty of cash.
- Caller ID inconsistencies: In a split family, a child may call from one parent’s home to the other parent’s home. If the incoming call displays the child’s name on caller ID, it could mean that parent has used their kid’s information to get phone service.
- Track record: An ex-spouse who has a history of misusing Social Security numbers—including a former partner’s Social Security number—might do it again. This time, it could be the child’s Social Security number.
If you suspect child identity theft by a parent, the steps you can take may be limited. If you’re a family friend or relation, you can notify the authorities. That could include the local police department or the Social Security Administration. Here’s how to reach the Social Security Fraud Hotline:
- Internet: Fraud Reporting Form
- Mail: Social Security Fraud Hotline, P.O. Box 17785, Baltimore, MD 21235
- Phone: 1-800-269-0271
- Fax: 410-597-0118
Steps a parent can take to help protect their child’s identity
If you’re a parent of the child, you can check to see if the child has a credit file at the three major credit reporting agencies. It a credit file exists, here are some additional steps to take.
- Contact each of the three major credit reporting companies—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
- Request a manual search of your child’s file. This involves searching for a file with your child’s name and Social Security number, and one using just the Social Security number.
- Keep records. Note the dates you made phone calls or mailed letters to the agencies. Keep copies of any letters you send and receive.
- Call each credit bureau and ask it to remove information associated with your child’s name and Social Security number. Such information includes all accounts, account inquiries and collection notices. You will have to provide the agencies with a copy of the Uniform Minor’s Status Declaration, which established the child is a minor.
- Contact businesses where your child’s information was misused. Ask them to close the fraudulent accounts and note the presence of identity theft.
- Contact one credit bureau to place a fraud alert on your child’s credit report. That bureau will contact the other two.
- Consider placing a credit freeze on your child’s credit reports.
- Order your child’s credit reports—and review them.
- File a fraud report with the FTC online or by phone—877-438-4338.
- Create an Identity Theft Report at identitytheft.gov.
Keep in mind that some services can monitor your child’s credit file for a fee. Such services can help protect against many types of child identity theft—not just those committed by a parent.
If you want to learn more about child identity theft, not only by parents, you can read additional tips to help protect your child’s identity.
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