Protect your kids from identity thieves

| 15 Feb 2012 | 08:51

    You're probably weary of being reminded to take precautions against identity theft, but here's a wrinkle you may not have considered: Identity thieves have broadened their reach by harvesting children's dormant Social Security numbers (SSNs) and using them to illegally obtain jobs, credit accounts, mortgages or car loans and much worse. Many victims have no inkling anything is amiss until they later apply for a student loan, bank account, job or apartment and are turned down because of poor credit history. Some families have even been hounded by collection agencies or served with arrest warrants because the debts or criminal activities thieves executed were so extreme. There's no completely foolproof way to protect your child's identity, but here warning signs your child's personal data might have been compromised: Preapproved credit account offers. Calls from collection agencies, creditors or government agencies. You're denied opening a bank account in their name because one already exists with the same SSN. They are denied credit, employment, a driver's license or college enrollment for unknown or credit-related reasons. There may be legitimate reasons why your child is receiving credit offers. For example, if you opened a college fund or they enrolled in a frequent flyer program. However, if you strongly suspect an identity theft has been committed, you can: File a police report and keep a copy as proof of the crime. Contact the fraud units at the three major credit bureaus for instructions: Equifax (800-525-6285), Experian (888-397-3742) and TransUnion (800-680-7289). Notify the Federal Trade Commission (877-438-4338). Their Identity Theft site at contains information on fraud alerts, credit freezes, working with police and much more. Ask Social Security (800-772-1213) whether anyone has reported income using your child's SSN. Search "Identity Theft" at for information. Contact the IRS' Identity Protection Unit (800-980-4490).