Consumer Watch: Protect your child from identity theft

Consumer Watch: Protect your child from identity theft

March 2nd, 2013 By Ellen Phillips in Business Diary

Ellen Phillips

As readers know, I'm a huge advocate of anything that helps to stop identity theft. One of the most atrocious scams ever is to target the Social Security number of infants and children. In fact, this most vulnerable segment of our population is a prime target; statistics show that one in 10 kids has a Social Security number used by another person before that child became an adult. Granted, this other person could be a parent, but this isn't always the case.

Vulnerability is the key element. Kids' private info is stored for all to see in school files, doctors' offices, and so forth, with no cyber security to protect these important numbers. Obviously, children don't apply for credit cards or a home mortgage, so no one is

the wiser if their identity has been stolen until they become adults and need this information for transactions. Too bad that in many cases, their alleged credit history is false, but there isn't a whole lot to be done to rectify this problem. Terry Thief could by then have racked up years and years of debt using an innocent child's Social Security number.

So how can you make sure this form of your child's ID hasn't been stolen? Contact the three main credit reporting agencies: Equifax (1-800-685-1111), Experian (1-888-397-3742), and TransUnion (1-800-680-7289). File a child-identity inquiry; if the results are OK, then the little one's ID is also OK.

However, on the other hand, if the worst occurs and the kiddie has been attacked, it's urgent you take the appropriate steps and fast. First, verify his or her status as a minor; use a birth certificate and send it with a letter to each agency asking to remove every account and collection notice that's associated with any account. Then, place a freeze (which can cost up to $10), as well as a 90-day fraud alert. By doing so, this prevents any potential creditors from requesting Kathy Kiddie's credit report while it's being corrected. And finally, don't forget a most important step: report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC at www.ftc.gov/complaint) and your local police force. By taking all these steps, the errors should be expunged.

Tax Tip: When you drove your car for medical purposes last year, hopefully you kept track of the mileage as the IRS allows 24 cents per mile (and for moving mileage as well, as long as you meet the criteria). If you drove for charity reasons, you can deduct 14 cents per mile.

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears every Saturday. Email her at consumer watch@timesfree press.com.