Protect Your Child from Identity Theft

Though it may not be common, be aware that criminals can steal a child’s social security number and use it for things like opening a line of credit, which can then lead to things like applying for government benefits in the child’s name, buying high-cost items, etc. The Federal Trade Commission, the government agency responsible for assisting victims of identity theft, received 22,229 reports from Americans ages nineteen and under last year, which accounts for 2% of all reported cases of identity theft. Because we do not typically think to check our children’s credit reports, this situation can go undetected for a long period of time, meaning the number of children impacted by identity theft may actually be higher than reported.

Following are some of the ways a child’s information may be researched and ultimately stolen:

  • Social media
  • Purchasing the information on the dark web
  • Public records

Gaining access to a child’s social security number is the goal because it can then be used to gain access to other information such as name, address, birth date, etc. This can lead to the criminal’s ability to get a loan, rent a home, obtain utilities, rent an apartment, etc. These acquisitions typically require a credit check.

Here are a few things you can do to protect your child from credit fraud and identity theft.

  1. Freeze your child’s credit. This will restrict anyone, including you as their parent, from opening new credit accounts with the child’s social security number. You can obtain a credit freeze as soon as your child has their social security number. Contact each of the three credit bureaus to obtain your child’s credit score and place a credit freeze (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian).
  2. Like we shared in a newsletter earlier this year, everyone should sign up to receive an annual free credit report to monitor changes in your credit history. Read the article on how to obtain a free report for you and your children.
  3. Lock birth certificates and social security cards in a safe or locked container like a filing cabinet.
  4. Share your child’s social security number with providers only as needed. A few times you will be required to share their social security number include: 1) when applying for a passport, 2) when they get a job, 3) or when they must do a tax return. Otherwise, be cautious in sharing this information.
  5. Talk to your children about the sensitivity of sharing their social security number with anyone, and especially online. Outside of the examples above, there isn’t a good reason to enter social security numbers online.
  6. Be aware of what information you share online about your child. Things like their age, where they go to school, and their birthdays.

If your child’s information is compromised, immediately reach out to the company with which their credit has been compromised (credit card company, auto insurance, bills of all kinds, etc.). Have the company close the account and send you written notification that this has been completed. Also go to which will provide you with the next steps.

Adapted from March 18, 2024, Wall Street Journal print edition of ‘How to Protect Your Child Against Identity Theft’ by Heidi Mitchell.


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