With the April 15th tax deadline just around the corner, it's a fitting time to talk about identity theft, particularly as it applies to children under 18. What's the significance of April 15th as it applies to identity theft?
Because in order to claim a child as a deduction on taxes, parents must provide their child's social security number. If this information falls into the wrong hands, it could cause damage that can take literally years to repair.
According to the Javelin Strategy and Research Center, 10 million Americans fell victim to identity theft in 2008. That's up 22% from 2007. Children are a particularly attractive target for identity thieves. Because of their non-existent, and therefore clean, credit histories, the theft of their identities can go undiscovered for a long time.
How can you protect your child from identity theft?
Never, ever carry your child's social security number or card around with you. Keep it locked in a safe-deposit box. Use it only when necessary, such as when filing taxes, providing information for financial accounts, applying for a passport, or enrolling your child in school.
Also, be sure to check your child's social security earnings record each year. You can do this by requesting a Social Security Earnings Record, which will alert you if someone uses your child's social security number to get a job. Call 1-800-772-1212 to request a report, or contact one of the three credit bureaus to obtain a credit file on your child.
And if you find that someone is using your child's social security number fraudulently? File a report with your local police department and online at the Federal Trade Commission website.
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