Telling Tips is a series of articles from local experts to help you save money, make better decisions and plan for a better future.
Is identity theft a problem for your child? Absolutely. You know you have to review your credit report every few months, and if a problem arises, order a fraud alert or freeze on your credit file or take other action, but when was the last time you checked your child’s report? A thief may use your child’s information for years before the crime is unveiled. So, in addition to teaching your child to looking both ways before crossing a street, and dressing properly for the weather, you need to take this important step as well.
What Should You Do?
- Don’t carry your child’s Social Security card, or other personal information such as their date of birth, birth certificate, or their Social Security number.
- Don’t share your child’s information unless you are satisfied that it is absolutely necessary. Maybe another form of identification would be satisfactory. Find out why it is necessary to provide it, how long will they keep it, and how will it be safeguarded.
- Don’t provide this information over the internet unless the website begins with “https.” In addition, a lock icon is displayed in the address bar.
- Only use a computer that has a current antivirus as well as a firewall protection. Do not use a ‘wireless’ connection.
- If you logged into a site using a password, log out when you complete your transactions, instead of just closing out. Also, close your browser window, and then open again.
- Don’t give the school any private information unless required. Read the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act that is sent home when information is requested.
- Shred documents with any personal information.
- Empty your computer’s recycle bin.
- Before disposing of your cell phone or computer, remove all personal information, Ask the manufacturer for help.
- Don’t photocopy personal records at the office or store. Current technology ‘remembers’ those documents.
Talk To Your Children
- Passwords should be totally private, and changed often.
- Passwords should contain upper case, lower case, symbols, and numbers — not dates of birth of anyone in the family, house numbers, family names, school, or team names.
- Explain phishing scams, and what to look for: pop-up messages, prizes, etc. Basically, do not open any unsolicited email. Set privacy settings to ‘high’ on social medial sites. Don’t upload photos, or share vacation plans.
- Let your children give you other precautions.
Identity Theft Signs
- Did you child receive an offer for a credit card? Or to open a bank account? A bill from a credit card company? Collection agency correspondence?
- Confirmation request of employment from the Social Security Administration or IRS if your child did not hold a job.
- Rejection of your tax return by the IRS because your dependent child was already claimed by someone else.
- Your child receives a notice from the IRS of taxes due, even though your child has no income.
Check Your Child’s Credit Report
As long as you are checking your credit report for free, do the same for your child. Each of the three credit reporting bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — must provide you with your credit information for free, once a year. Mark your calendar, let’s say, January for Equifax, May for Experian, and September for TransUnion to request your child’s, and your, report. If married, request your spouse’s in February, June, and October. For your child, ask for your child’s credit report, as well as a Social Security Number search only. You’ll have to prove you are the parent or legal guardian.
Identity Theft Actions
- Contact each of the three credit reporting agencies, and complete the Uniform Minor’s Status Declaration to send to them. Attach a letter asking them to remove any accounts, inquiries, and collection notices associated with your child.
- Discuss with the credit agencies about placing a ‘credit freeze’ or ‘fraud alert’ on the account.
- Call the IRS Specialized Identity Theft Protection Union at (800) 908-4490.
- Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission: www.ftc.gov or (877) 438-4338.
- File a police report.
- Call every company on your child’s credit report and let them know of the fraud, and follow up with a letter.
- Call the Social Security Administration and discuss if a new Social Security Number is required.
Don’t forget to check the Explanation of Benefits statements you receive from your insurance company for services rendered for your child.
Have a good week.
And for you mathematicians, did you know that the ratio of an igloo’s circumference to its diameter = Eskimo Pi?!
Joseph Reisman, of Joseph S. Reisman & Associates, has been serving tax prep and business accounting expertise from his Coney Island Avenue office for more than 25 years. Check out the firm’s website.