PORTLAND, Ore. — Identity thieves may be motivated to target children over adults, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Oregon division. Because children have clean credit histories and the theft can go unnoticed for years, they make tempting targets for fraud.
Thieves who can get their hands on a Social Security number unhindered with credit history can then associate the number with any name or date of birth and appear legitimate. Then, the identity thief can take out mortgages, loans, credit card debt, even fraudulent immigration documents—all linked to the stolen Social, an FBI statement said. Any number of names can be associated with that single, stolen number.
Once the fraud is finally noticed, it can be extremely difficult to clear up, according to the FBI. This can result in the child having difficulty taking out student loans, getting a credit card, or qualifying for a rental.
Since the identity theft can occur any number of ways—data breaches, improper disposal of sensitive documents, sharing of information online (any of which can happen to a family themselves or to a trusted institution)—the best defense is to know the warning signs of theft. Here is what the FBI says to watch for:
-Notices from the IRS saying that your child did not pay appropriate taxes
-Your child receiving credit card offers
-Your child receiving jury summons
-Collection agencies or companies attempting to contact your child about an unpaid bill
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has the following advice if you notice some of these red flags:
-Contact each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Gather confirming documents, like the child's birth certificate, Social Security number, or a government issued ID so that you can prove your child's identity.
-Ask the credit agencies to search for your child in their system to determine if there are any associated credit reports. Ask that any fraudulent accounts or collection notices be removed from the report.
-Place a fraud alert on your child's information with the credit agencies, and file a fraud alert with the FTC.
-Contact any business listed on the credit report and ask them to close the account and have it marked as fraudulent.
-Document every call you make or letter you send.
If you have been victimized by an online scam, the FBI recommends that you report it to their Internet Crime Complaint Center or call the local FBI office.