COSTA, MESA, CALIF., — Halloween is right around the corner and kids are getting ready to celebrate by dressing up as their favorite characters. Unfortunately, identity thieves can also “dress up,” stealing children’s identities and potentially impacting their financial futures. Many parents are worried about the issue but lack knowledge that would allow them to better protect their children, according to a national survey by Experian.
Some parents seem less worried. Alarmingly, survey findings show that parents may engage in fraudulent behavior, using their children’s personal information to create financial accounts. Fourteen percent of survey respondents said they created financial accounts with their children’s Social Security numbers, and 17 percent said they would allow a close relative to open an account using their child’s Social Security numbers.
“The fact that so many parents are using their children’s identities or allowing others to do so is a serious concern,” said Michael Bruemmer, vice president of Consumer Protection at Experian. “This is identity theft. This is fraud. This is a criminal act. Beyond the criminal aspect, parents need to understand the impact fraud can have on a child’s financial future. It can be devastating.”
While a majority (80 percent) of survey respondents say they are concerned that their children will become victims of identity theft, many are not taking necessary steps to minimize risk. More than half (51 percent) don’t monitor their children’s internet use closely and 33 percent don’t refrain from posting personal information about their children on social media. Nearly half of respondents (46 percent) don’t store their children’s identification documents at home in a safe and some keep these documents in wallets (10 percent).
“Children’s personal information, such as a social security number, full name or home address, is used by thieves it to create a new identity and commit fraud,” explained Bruemmer. “Unfortunately, when children are victims of identity theft and fraud, it often goes unnoticed for years. Only 16 percent of parents surveyed said they had ever even checked to see if their children had a credit report, a major warning sign that a child has been a victim of identity theft. Regularly monitoring for the existence of a credit report is a key step to protecting your child.”
Other key findings:
- More than half (66%) of parents surveyed allow their children to have private passwords to email and social media
- 27% think it is a good idea to create a credit report in their child’s name for the purpose of freezing it, which is not a recommended practice
- Only 24% of those surveyed are aware of identity theft monitoring products for children
What can you do if you suspect your child is a victim? Take these steps:
- Check with Experian for the existence of a credit report in your child’s name. If a credit report exists, it can be frozen. Visithttps://www.experian.com/fraud/center.html for more information.
- If you know of any accounts opened in your child’s name, contact the business and let them know the account is fraudulent.
- File a report with the FTC online or call 877-438-4338.
- File a police report with local law enforcement.