Child identity theft is widespread and the stories that it produces are fascinating, shocking and often terrifying. Here’s a case study from Credit.com partner Identity Theft 911:
Kimberly Reed panicked when a state health worker told her that her son wouldn’t be eligible to renew his free health care because he made too much money.
The strange part: Her son Cory* was only 2 years old. Someone had used his Social Security number to receive $548 in paychecks from a business in the Pacific Northwest. The boy had become a victim of a troubling category of identity crime: child identity theft.
Reed was fortunate to detect the crime so early: It allowed her to take the necessary steps to resolve the problem. In most cases, child identity theft remains undiscovered for years — until victims are teenagers or in their 20s, and are applying for a student loan or their first credit card. By then, they can encounter horrible credit ratings and histories or thousands of dollars of debt in their names.
Reed acted quickly. Her insurance company referred her to Identity Theft 911. Sandra Ayala was the fraud specialist assigned to the case. She called the Social Security Administration to ask for a statement that showed earnings associated with Cory’s Social Security number. That statement would serve as evidence that the boy’s identity was misused.
On Reed’s behalf, Ayala wrote letters to the three primary credit bureaus explaining the fraud and requesting a suppression on Cory’s SSN. That means no one can take out a loan or get credit on a Social Security number until the individual is 18 years old. Fortunately, no one had used Cory’s identity information to obtain loans or credit.
Ayala also advised Reed to contact her local police department, which filed an incident report that Reed could use as further proof of the identity theft.
“It’s quite the ordeal — not really how I wanted to spend the beginning part of my summer,” said Reed, who was grateful for Ayala’s help. “She did a lot of things that I didn’t think of — she was very helpful.”
The efforts paid off. State health services officials acknowledged the fraud and renewed Cory’s free health care.
If identity theft is suspected, parents should contact the credit bureaus to see whether their child has a credit report; put a suppression on the account so no credit can be extended under that Social Security number; and continue to watch for credit cards and other offers that might come in the mail in their child’s name, Ayala said.
“I would have never thought to check my 2-year-old’s credit report,” said Reed, who has also suppressed her 7-month-old daughter’s SSN. “I’ve called all my friends and family to tell them to block their children’s Social Security numbers.”
* Name and location have been changed to protect the victim’s privacy.
Obviously, children aren’t the only ones who can become victims of identity theft. If you’re worried about your own identity being compromised, you can monitor your credit scores every month on Credit.com. If you see a big change for no apparent reason, it could be a sign that you’ve become a victim.
More on Identity Theft:
- How Do I Dispute an Error on My Credit Report?
- The Risks You Face From Identity Theft
- How Can You Tell If Your Identity Has Been Stolen?