PRACTICAL MONEY: Identity thieves target kids as well as adults

Published: Monday, August 18, 2014 at 12:51 PM.

I'm sorry to report that child identity fraud is alive and well in 2014. If anything, the problem may be worsening as identity thieves devise new methods to steal – and use – children's personal information. Most commonly, they'll harvest kids' dormant Social Security numbers and use them to illegally obtain jobs or open fraudulent bank and credit accounts, mortgages or car loans.

Many victims don't realize there's a problem until they later apply for a student loan, bank account, job or apartment and are turned down because of the poor credit history someone else racked up. Some families are even hounded by collection agencies or arrested because the debts or criminal activities were so extreme.

There are no completely foolproof methods to protect your children's identities, but here are some precautions you can take:

While it's tempting to simply not register your kids for SSNs until they turn 18, that's not practical in today's world. For one thing, they'll need one to be claimed as dependents on your taxes. You may also need SSNs for your kids to obtain medical coverage or government services or to open bank accounts in their names.

Because each person's SSN is unique, it's not uncommon for schools, healthcare providers, insurance companies, banks and others to require them as ID. However, don't be afraid to ask:

●Why do they need to use an SSN – is there a legal requirement?

●Will they accept alternative identification?



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