Protect your children from identity theft

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Many of us keep a close eye on our credit reports – but when was the last time you checked your child’s credit?

If your child has ever received a letter from a credit card company or the IRS, you may have a big problem on your hands.

Between working two jobs and raising four kids, one with severe ADHD, Neala Elsworth didn’t think things could get more complicated, but then Medi-Cal began denying her kids’ insurance claims.

“They told me three out of four of my ids have another insurance,” she recalled.

Elsworth soon discovered that someone else was using her kids’ Social Security numbers to get benefits in another state – an all too common form of child ID theft.

Kenneth Abbey from the Federal Trade Commission says that child ID theft is about 50 times higher than it is for adults, and that one out of every 10 children studied had someone else using their Social Security number. It’s something that parents often don’t discover until their children get credit card applications, collection notices, letters from the IRS, or worse – when they’re denied a student loan.

“Parents should check every three to four years to see if their child has a credit report, but especially check when the child turns 16,” Abbey explained.

That should provide plenty of time to clean up compromised credit before the child turns 18, according to Abbey, and until then, kids shouldn’t have a credit report at all.

Elsworth is urging other parents to be proactive.

“Make sure your child’s identity isn’t getting stolen, because it could happen,” she said. “I never thought it would happen to me, but it’s happened.”

Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to submit a request to all three credit bureaus to see if your child has a credit report.

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