Child identity theft occurs when an adult illegally obtains a child’s private information such as social security numbers, birth records, or hospital records. The stolen information is then used for financial purposes, such as obtaining a fraudulent loan or building a false credit score. Children have recently become targets for identity thieves, since children generally have a clean credit record.
Sadly, in cases of child identity theft, the thief is usually the child’s own father or mother. Close relatives such as uncles and aunts or older siblings can also be the identity thief.
Child identity theft usually begins as an unintentional act. Oftentimes the child’s parent who is in debt may take out a loan using the child’s social security number. Since many credit or loan companies do not verify the person’s age, they will issue the loan to the parent. Then over time the parent may not be able to pay back the loan, or, more commonly, they simply forget it exists.
This process may be repeated several times using the child’s information. Later on, when the child reaches the age of majority, they discover that their credit history is ruined. This can place much strain on the child-parent relationship in the long run.
What Are the Consequences for Child Identity Theft Charges?
Identity theft in general is a white collar crime that can lead to serious legal consequences. If a person is found guilty of identity theft, they can face jail time or hefty monetary fines, or a combination of the two. If the crime involves large amounts of money or repeat offenses, it can even lead to federal charges and prison time in a federal facility.
Child identity theft is even more serious because it involves questions of proper parenting. Charges of child identity theft on one’s criminal record can negatively impact the parent’s rights with regards to custody and visitation. It reflects very poorly on the parent’s ability to care for the child.
If a divorce situation arises in the future, courts will use a number of factors to determine custody. They will definitely look to the parent’s financial history and any records of crimes. Thus, a parent with a record of child identity theft could be denied rights to custody of their children.
How Can I Prevent Child Identity Theft?
If you are a parent, never use your child’s social security number or other information for questionable purposes. If you suspect that another person is stealing their child’s information, you should report such activity to the proper authorities. Some more tips for preventing child identity theft include:
Check your child’s credit files with each respective credit agency. Children who are under the age of 18 should not have an existing credit file. If a file exists, it may mean that someone has used your child’s information to establish their own fraudulent credit score.
You can obtain credit reports, usually once a year, free of charge from various credit bureaus. If any credit report looks suspicious, report this to the police.
Child school records are a main source for child identity theft. Check to be sure that your child’s educational information is not being abused. You might want to inquire with a local school board regarding how they protect confidential information
Hospital, medical, and insurance records are also common targets for child identity theft. Be sure to periodically check your child’s records for any discrepancies or suspicious changes
Finally, be sure to teach your child not to disclose any information to strangers or persons who seem suspicious. Even such information such as a telephone number or address can provide a thief with clues for completing an identity theft.
If you suspect that your child has been a victim of identity theft, you should contact a lawyer to help you with your dispute. A qualified attorney can explain to you the various laws regarding identity theft. Also, if you suspect a relative or spouse is stealing your child’s information, you should not hesitate to contact a lawyer. It is always a delicate matter to report your own loved ones, but it may help prevent more abuses in the future.