Identity theft now even involves crooks targeting babies.
Criminals are using newly assigned Social Security numbers to open credit cards. A D.C.-based consumers’ group has tips to help parents.
First, to find out whether your child’s identity has been hacked, you can check with the only source of free credit reports authorized by federal law — AnnualCreditReport.com.
“What you need to do is go to annualcreditreport.com,” said Kevin Brasler the Washington Consumers’ Checkbook executive editor.
“We’re urging parents to go ahead and check with the credit agencies to see if a file has already been created for their kids. If it has, then fraud might have occurred, and you need to clean that up, you need to put a stop to it,” he said.
Checkbook reports that one in 50 children in the U.S. were victims of ID theft fraud last year, costing nearly $1 billion, according to a report by Javelin Strategy & Research.
One of the scams involves offenders establishing credit lines with the social security numbers of newborns and youngsters they use to open credit cards.
“They actually pay the bills for a little bit to make the file even better; they apply for even more credit; and then they go crazy; they spend lots and lots of money,” Brasler said.
Brasler recommends parents put a credit freeze in for kids with each of the three major credit reporting bureaus. Doing that would involve establishing a legitimate file for children with the correct dates of birth and other information so criminals can’t take advantage of children’s clean credit histories.
“It’s a pain, you’re going to have to send them the birth certificate and other information,” Brasler said. “But once they’ve created that file, you can then freeze the credit file to where no one can apply for credit unless they have a pass code or PIN that you the parent set up for your kids.”
Something important worth noting is that once the children’s credit files are established and frozen that parents keep track of everything.
“Once you’ve received pins and frozen those files, you need to put that password or PIN in a safe place so that later on your kids can unfreeze their credit when they want to apply for an apartment, get a cellphone or get insurance or apply for a job in some cases,” he said.