Attorney General Todd Rokita is warning Hoosiers that child identity theft is on the rise. 1.3 million children have their identities stolen every year. This crime occurs when a hacker steals a child’s personal information and uses it to receive services or benefits.
“Having your identity stolen, as an adult or a child, is devastating financially and mentally,” Attorney General Rokita said. “Our children do not typically have credit reports, which presents a blank slate for criminals to apply for credit and take out loans in their name. This type of theft can go undetected for years until they apply for a car loan or their first credit card.”
Scammers often use children’s Social Security number, name and address, or date of birth to apply for services, like health care coverage or nutrition assistance, open a bank or credit card account, apply for a loan, sign up for a utility service, or even rent a place to live.
“The effects of identity fraud are not only a hinderance or an annoyance – they can also destroy the future of children who are navigating into adulthood,” Attorney General Rokita said. “As they apply for college loans or apply for a credit card, they can be completely denied due to unprotected data and greedy hackers.”
Attorney General Rokita, along with the Federal Trade Commission, offer the following tips to protect your child from identity theft:
- Ask questions before giving anyone your child’s Social Security number – even if it the child’s school, ask these questions:
- Why do you need it?
- How will you protect it?
- Can you use a different identifier?
- Can you use just the last four digits of the Social Security number?
- Protect documents with personal information
- If you have documents with your child’s personal information, like medical bills or their Social Security card, keep them in a safe place, like a locked file cabinet.
- When you decide to get rid of those documents, shred them before you throw them away. If you don’t have a shredder, look for a local shred day.
- Delete personal information before disposing of a computer or cell phone.
- Your computer and phone might contain personal information about your child. Find out how to delete that information before you get rid of a computer or a cell phone.
- Security Freeze
- As a parent or legal guardian, a security freeze is one tool you can use to restrict certain access to your minor dependent’s credit report. Should you request a security freeze be placed on your minor dependent’s credit report, a credit report is created for the minor and then frozen.
- Once a security freeze is placed on your child’s credit report, it restricts certain access to it, including by fraudsters who may be trying to open a new account using the child’s ID.
- Security freezes are free but must be placed separately with all 3 national credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). You’ll need to provide copies of documentation that verify your ID; the minor dependent’s ID; and your relationship to them.
If your child’s identity is hacked, report and close the fraudulent accounts, freeze your child’s credit, and contact Attorney General Rokita’s staff by visiting gov/attorneygeneral or calling 1-800-382-5516. You also may report suspected cybercriminal scams to the FBI at www.ic3.gov or IdentityTheft.gov.