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Shred It: Protecting your child's identity

Paper Shredding
Paper Shredding
Posted at 6:30 PM, May 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-02 15:07:43-04

TALLAHASSEE, FL (WTXL) -- No one wants to fall victim to identity theft, but unfortunately it happens. This crime doesn't discriminate, everyone is at risk, including children.

Young, innocent, and full of potential, but children's names can be ruined long before they reach adulthood. Often times, parents don't think about checking their child's credit score, but that's the best way to ensure their identity isn't stolen.

"All someone needs is basically their name, date of birth, social security number, a combination of those things," says Tallahassee Police Officer Damon Miller. "They can basically almost get anything they want to. It's very important to basically check everyone's credit in the household to make sure everyone is ok."

Why is it that children are targeted for identity theft? According to Equifax, children don't typically have a credit history or debt. As older kids and teens start using social media more, they may over-share their personal information.

"Even with social media, you've just got to be so careful with what you're putting out there for people to use," explains Allison Wainwright with Shred-It Tallahassee. "You just want to take a look at everything you're doing and protect yourself."

By the time a child or parent realizes the identity has been stolen, it's years later when they're applying for their first loan, or credit card.

Here are some warning signs parents should not ignore --

1. Your child is turned down for government benefits. This could happen because benefits are already being paid to another account with the same social security number.

2. The IRS informs you that your child's social security number has already been used for taxes. The IRS may also tell you that your child didn't pay income taxes.

3. Be aware of any bills or calls that may be addressed to your child.

"Be cautious of those phone calls. If it's too good to be true, it probably is," warns Miller. "If someone's asking to confirm your name, address, or social security number. If it's a company you're already doing business with, they should already have that information. Never give anything over the phone."

If you suspect that your child's identity has been stolen, call the company where the fraud occurred and report it to the police or Federal Trade Commission. It's also possible to place a freeze on a child's social security number making it harder to someone to use it. 

The Federal Trade Commission recommends that parents check each child's credit by the time they are sixteen. This way any fraudulent or misuse errors can be cleared before it's too late.

There are three national credit agencies that should be looked at at least once a year:

Equifax

Experian

Trans Union