Mele Kalikimaka and Happy Holidays! I hope this note finds you significantly better prepared for the holidays than me. My parents arrived on island Saturday and are staying until APRIL, so now that the calvary has arrived (read: backup child care!), I am definitely having a happy holiday!
As though you don’t have enough to think about already, this month’s article is about protecting the identity of your children. Identity theft is a topic close to my heart, because years ago, when Mark and I were applying for our first mortgage, I learned that someone had created multiple aliases using my social security number and was opening credit cards like crazy.
What was most shocking to me at the time was how difficult it was for me to get the banks to stop the cards or even put a hold on them. I remember on Christmas Eve 2001 getting yet another letter from the same bank asking Margaret Depina to verify that the charges on the account were not hers (even though I, Meg Obenauf, had sent at least four lengthy affidavits). I felt like screaming, “There is no Margaret Depina!!!”
I tend to be somewhat tenacious (I am sure Lindsey remembers the Identity Theft Binder), so by working with the three credit reporting agencies to clear up my credit report; and the Northeastern University Police and the U.S. Secret Service to investigate, we were able to prosecute successfully. It turned out C.L., aka Margaret Depina and MANY other names, had also defrauded the university where she worked as a receptionist (and I had worked as a teaching fellow). She received a one-year vaca at her local federal detention facility.
But this article is about your kids…
Protecting Your Child’s Identity
The holidays are upon us, and unfortunately, so are the opportunities for being victims of fraud.
Most of us are savvy enough to know we should shred our credit card bills and anything else with identifying information on it.
But have you thought about protecting your child’s identity?
Child identity theft is a fairly new problem but it’s happening more and more. And according to the FTC, 5% of the victims were under the age of 18.
To keep your child from becoming a victim of identity theft, keep these tips in mind:
1. Don’t disclose personal information if you don’t know how it’s going to be used.
Never give your child’s personal information out over the phone, through the mail or online, especially with regard to any kind of sales promotion. Never carry your child’s Social Security card or number in your purse or wallet.
If your child is old enough to use the Internet (and they start really young these days), watch what they’re doing. Social networking sites have led to an increase in the amount of personal information children are providing about themselves online. And predators are out there watching and waiting.
Just as you warn your child about talking to strangers, warn them about posting their home address, date of birth or phone number online.
2. Request that your bank require photo identification.
This is for all transactions for your accounts or accounts in your child’s name.
3. Don’t apply for credit cards through offers received by mail.
If you have opened a credit card account with your child as a joint account holder (typically a teenager), you will more than likely begin to receive credit card offers in your child’s name. If you do, don’t assume that it’s a mistake.
If you receive an offer in the mail for your child, check with the three credit reporting agencies periodically to make sure that fraudulent accounts haven’t been opened in your child’s name.
Contact 888-5OPT-OUT or 888-567-8688 to opt out of receiving prescreened credit offers in your name or your child’s.
4. Shred all paperwork.
Just as you would shred paperwork with your information on it, shred anything with your child’s information on it. The same protections that you employ for yourself should be applied to your child.
5. Contact the Social Security Administration
Call the Social Security Administration and request an earnings report in your child’s Social Security number and name to make sure that someone isn’t out there working under your child’s identity.
If you take these steps and your research turns up fraudulent information, take the following steps to begin to correct the problem:
• Contact the Social Security Administration and advise them of the fraud.
• Contact the three leading credit report agencies, TransUnion, Experian and Equifax and advise them of the problem.
• File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
As parents, our chief concern is and will always be protecting our children. When your kids are 50 and you’re in your 80’s, you’ll still be worrying about their safety and well-being.
If you are interested in taking additional steps to protect your children, give us a call. There are legal documents you need to have in place to make sure that your children are protected in the event you’re not there to care for them.
Have a great holiday season!