Stealing Your Child’s Identity


by Barbara Nevins Taylor

A Pennsylvania mom called me after she filed her income tax return and discovered someone had already claimed her three children and collected the tax refund. She was justifiably outraged,upset and concerned.  This was big problem that affected more than the income tax refund.

Stolen Social Security Numbers

When I investigated, I found her children’s Social Security numbers were stolen and used for the false claims. In addition, the thief, or thieves, opened credit cards in their names and outrageous charges went unpaid.  The mom said, “I’m worried about my children’s credit in the future.  How will they be able to get a loan, buy a car, buy a house?”  Her questions get to the heart of identity theft’s long-term harm.  Once the Social Security number is stolen, it’s very difficult to repair the damage.  Government agencies are not quick to help, and your local police may want to investigate but often can’t track down the bad guys.

The Social Security Administration says it may assign a new number if you can prove that the number is repeatedly misused.  This is likely to be a long, tedious process.

Take Action In Advance

It’s best to take action in advance and keep an eye on your children’s credit reports.  You can get them for free three times a year at AnnualCreditReport.com. Do not pay anyone to pull a credit report.

Look for charges that don’t make sense and for a notation of credit cards that you never opened.

What To Do

If you discover your child’s Social Security number was stolen:

1. Contact the three national reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Write letters to explain that the number was stolen and ask for a manual check of the report.

They may ask for:

  •      Your child’s birth certificate that lists the parents
  •      Your government issued identification. This can be a driver’s license, military identification or some form that shows you are the parent.
  •      Your proof of address. This can be a utility bill, a credit card statement or other official piece of mail sent to your address.

2.  Ask the credit bureaus to remove all accounts, collections and inquiries about your child’s Social Security number. Keep copies of the letters and documents that you send.

2. Ask one of these companies to place a fraud alert on your child’s account. That company will contact the other two.

3.  File a fraud report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), or call 877-438-4338.

Again, this is not easy to fix.  And that’s why it’s important to be proactive and check credit reports for fraud and errors.

We have a lot more information on ConsumerMojo.com., so take a look around.  Let us know what you think.  And if you have a question, “Ask Barbara.” Let me go to work for you.

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Barbara Nevins Taylor

As the winner of 22 Emmy Awards and a slew of journalism honors and awards, I created ConsumerMojo.com to give you the straight story about complicated stuff. Tell us what you want to know and we'll get you the answers.