Is Your Child’s Social Security Number at Risk?

You know you should check your credit report to see if your identity has been stolen. If a thief obtains your Social Security number, they can establish credit cards in your name, borrow money and make purchases — all without you realizing it.

And yet, millions of people have never checked to see if their identity has been stolen. You know why? Because they can’t read, have no access to a telephone and don’t know how to use the Internet.

I’m not talking about immigrants. I’m talking about three-year-olds. In fact, I’m talking about your three-year-old, your teenagers, and your grandchildren.

cant-sign-my-name1All the pundits offer advice on how you can safeguard your Social Security number. But what about your kid’s Social Security number? Most every child gets a Social Security number shortly after birth, which means every child is a potential victim. And if you were a thief, whose number would you prefer to steal: a corporate executive’s, or her child’s? After all, children won’t use their Social Security number for years — not until they apply for a job, a driver’s license, or open a bank account. If a thief steals your child’s or grandchild’s number, the theft may go unnoticed for years.

How to protect your child’s Social Security number:

Call 877-322-8228 or visit www.annualcreditreport.com to see if you can get a free copy of the child’s credit report. You shouldn’t be able to; since the child probably hasn’t applied for credit, there should be no credit report. Therefore, if the child has one, it is likely that someone is illicitly using his or her Social Security number. (Note: if the child is under age 13, you must request a copy of the child’s credit report via letter. The Web site provides further information.)

Monitor the mail that is addressed to your child. A collection notice, or even an offer for a pre-approved card, is a tip off that something is likely wrong.

Don’t give anyone your child’s Social Security number. When doctors, hospitals, schools, cell phone providers or others request the number; see if they will accept some other identification number. Ask how they will share the information and who has access.

Keep the child’s Social Security card in a safe place. A bank safe deposit box is a good idea because the card is rarely needed. Remember that most identity thieves are friends or family members of the victims.

When the child is old enough to understand, explain why he or she must never disclose any personal data (including the Social Security number) without your prior permission. Warn them that identity thieves are active on the Internet, often offering enticing gifts such as iPods and free music downloads in exchange for the child’s birth date, name, address and Social Security number.

Shred documents that contain the child’s information, but keep the shredder away from the child as some machines shred more than paper.

If you think someone has stolen your child’s identity, check with one of the credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion or Equifax), and talk with a police officer who specializes in juvenile identity theft.

Be as vigilant with your child’s data as you are with your own.

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