Child identity theft on the rise

By William E. Lewis Jr.

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, March 13 2012 10:51 a.m. MDT

A common misconception among creditors and credit reporting agencies is that they have a method of verification when it comes to the age and identity of an individual. Since most creditors rely strictly upon the written application when rendering a credit decision and the “age” of an individual becomes “official” with a credit reporting agency upon the first application for credit, said reliance can be fatal and lead to child identity theft.

“We commend the Utah Attorney General’s office for leading the fight against child identity theft,” TransUnion’s president of Consumer Services, Mark Marinko, told KSL. “TransUnion’s hope is that our joint efforts will build momentum for participation within the federal government, particularly the Social Security Administration, whose assistance in similar programs would significantly contribute to reducing child identity theft once and for all.”

Tips for protecting your child

There are instances that may appear to be identity theft but are not. Receiving a pre-approved credit card offer might upset you as a parent but may only be the pitch of a potential creditor because you opened an account or college fund in your child’s name. A quick check of credit reports will help sort out the truth.

All three credit reporting agencies have automated systems for requesting credit reports. You should contact them semi-annually to request a credit report on your children. If you are advised that no credit report exists, your child is probably safe for the time being.

Equifax can be contacted at 800-685-1111; Experian can be contacted at 888-397-3742; and TransUnion can be contacted at 800-916-8800.

When someone requests your child's social security number, ask questions before providing it, including why it is needed, who will have access to it, and how it will be safeguarded. If you are not comfortable, refuse to provide the number.

If your child becomes a victim of identity theft, immediately file a police report with your local law enforcement agency. Federal law mandates that credit reporting agencies investigate and assist identity theft victims. Nevertheless, it all starts with a properly filed police report. Without one, creditors, collection agencies and credit reporting agencies are not required to act upon your complaint.

To learn more about the Child Identity Protection program, please visit the Utah Attorney General’s website at cip.utah.gov.

To learn more about child identity theft and how to protect your child from becoming a victim, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website at ftc.gov.

“Until the Social Security Administration allows unfettered access to their consent based social security number verification service, children will continue to be at risk,” concluded Hamp.

Bill Lewis is the principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates and host of The Credit Report with Bill Lewis - a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues on AM 740 WSBR in south Florida.

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