NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – They strike when you least expect it, and everyone is fair game. The problem is they could be anyone; there is no specific look to these opportunistic thieves.
Child identity theft is a topic not always talked about, but to scammers, a child’s identity is just as promising as an adult’s.
Scammers can open credit cards, apply for loans, and even buy a car, but the worst part is it could be years before the child finds out, and, when they do, it could be too late.
“They are trying to hurt you and your child,” said Kevin Walters, spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. “They are wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
It is hard to imagine someone going after a child’s identity, but Walters says age doesn’t matter and children are a prime target.
“Child identity theft is something most people don’t think about,” said Walters. “Most people are thinking identity thieves are targeting adults or senior adults and while identity thieves don’t care who they go after they go after the most vulnerable of the population.”
The first signs your child is being scammed could be a notice from the IRS stating they did not pay income taxes. You might also get collection calls or bills for products or services you didn’t order or receive.
“If your child, who might be a toddler or preschooler, suddenly had a credit report or a credit card request that is a sure fire tip off that information that you are being targeted by a scammer,” said Walters.
The best line of defense is to keep an eye out, especially when registering your children for school. This is when forms require personal and sometimes sensitive information.
Never be afraid to ask where that information is being stored or why it is needed. Also, always shred personal information when you are done with it.
“If someone establishes a line of credit or a credit card in your child’s name and then they skip out on paying that and burn through it, burn the credit line up and you don’t pay it, ultimately someone is going to have to pay that,” said Walters. “And it could be on your child’s credit report for years. “
If you think your child is being scammed, notify the authorities immediately. You can also reach out to credit bureaus to let them know what is going on.
“One thing a parent can do in Tennessee is enact a security freeze,” said Walters. “Which freezes all release of personal information to the three major credit card reporting bureaus.”
It is also a good idea to check whether your child has a credit report close to their 16th birthday. If there is one you will have time to correct the issues before the child applies for a job, loan for college tuition or for an apartment.
“They don’t care how old you are, how much you might love your child or that your child is underage,” said Walters.