What Everyone Needs to Know about Child Identity Theft

This post brought to you by Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The content and opinions expressed below are that of Sew Woodsy.

Have you or someone you know ever been a vicitim of identity theft? Luckily, Jon and I have never had to deal with this, but we know it happens all too often. Did you know that each year, more than 50,000 children in Florida become victims of identity theft, and more than $100 million is stolen from children whose identities have been compromised. I’ve only ever associated identity theft with adults–never children. That was until I recently read about child identity theft on the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website.

Identity thieves target kids because they generally have clean credit histories, and years will pass before the crime is detected because most parents only check their own credit–not their innocent child’s credit. It’s never too early to start protecting your child from identity theft.

Did you know that an identity thief can use a name and a Social Security number to open a bank account, obtain credit cards, apply for a loan, or even rent a place to live? I can’t even imagine someone using my son’s name and identity and take advantage at him. These are sadly the things new parents (and parents of any children) have to worry about these days.

Protect Your Child’s Identity: You can take precautions to keep your child’s personal information out of the hands of thieves. Here are a few simple things you can do (most are things you probably already do with your own documents):

  • Keep birth certificates, Social Security cards and other sensitive documents in a secure place, such as a safe deposit box or home safe. Avoid carrying these documents with you.
  • Be careful when disposing of documents containing personal information. Shred them before you throw them out.
  • Avoid giving out your child’s Social Security number unless it is absolutely necessary. Ask why it is needed, how it will be protected, how it will be used, and if another form of identification would be acceptable.
  • Use strong computer passwords. Never write them down or share them.
  • Limit the information you share about yourself and your child on social networking sites. Try not to share their birthdate or even their full name.
  • Use only secure websites when sharing financial information online. A lock icon on the status bar of your browser means your information will be safe when it is transmitted.

If you live in Florida your in luck (and if you don’t check out your state’s laws regarding child identity theft). Thanks to the new Florida law, parents can easily set up credit records for their children and freeze them. This effectively blocks thieves from using a child’s personal information to open a credit card, mortgage or other financial account. By freezing your child’s credit, you are blocking others from using it.

To create a credit report for your child and freeze it, contact the following credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. Details on the documents these agencies will need and sample letters are available at www.FreshFromFlorida.com/ProtectYourChild. The fee to freeze your child’s credit is a low, one-time fee of $10 per agency, or waived if your child is already a victim of identity theft. Any parent or legal guardian of minors up to 16-years-old may sign up their child. The freeze lasts until the parent contacts the credit bureau to remove the freeze, or until the child reaches adulthood and asks for the freeze to be removed.

If you live in the state of Florida and have a child I highly encourage you to sign your children up for child identity theft protection so you can ensure your children’s credit is safe from theft. I’m already in the process of doing this for Ryder. The last thing I want to deal with is having his precious little idenity stolen.

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