Children can be victims of identity theft, too

Learn the warning signs of identity theft and how a child’s personal information can be compromised.

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According to research by Javelin (November 2021), “child identity fraud costs U.S. families nearly $1 billion annually and affects one out of every 50 children.” While this statistic may be surprising, there are warning signs that indicate a child’s personal identity is being used fraudulently. The Federal Trade Commission advises parents to look out for the following:

  • The child is turned down for government benefits because the benefits are being paid to another account using your child’s Social Security number.
  • The child receives a notice from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) saying the child didn’t pay income taxes or the child’s Social Security number was used on another tax return.
  • The child gets collection calls or bills for products or services you didn’t receive or purchase.
  • The child receives credit card offers or bank information in the mail.

A child’s identity is put at risk in several ways. Scam artists want a child’s personal information because the Social Security number is priceless. Think about all the places where a child’s personal information is kept. School offices, doctor offices, and your home can all experience breaches of security, whether an actual physical intrusion or a hack on computer systems. Relatives have also been known to steal a child’s identity for personal use.

Parents may be devastated to discover their child’s identity has been stolen. If a parent or guardian suspects the use of their child’s personal information, then a credit report should be ordered. According to the Federal Trade Commission, adults should request a manual search for your child’s Social Security number. The credit reporting agencies will require additional documentation to perform the search. They will need the child’s birth certificate, Social Security card, the parent or guardian’s government-issued identification card and proof of address (utility bill, insurance statement, etc.)

Adults must contact all three credit bureaus to check activity using the child’s identity:

Ideally, there will be no credit file existing for the child. However, if credit activity is found, then the adult must act quickly. Request a copy of the child’s credit report. Have the credit bureau remove all accounts, inquiries, and collection notices from any file connected with the child’s Social Security number and name. Ask that an extended fraud alert or credit freeze be placed on the file. A fraud alert is free and will require identity verification from a business before any credit is granted. Contact information in the credit file must be kept updated to assist the credit bureaus with notifying you.

Contact every business listed in the credit report and ask them to close the account. Explain to them that the account is fraudulent and needs to be designated as a product of identity theft. Keep a record of the correspondence and communications between you, the credit agencies, companies, and creditors. Follow up with all involved parties to ensure your requests have been honored. File a fraud report with the Federal Trade Commission. This will help the Federal Trade Commission detect patterns of fraud and abuse. And finally, put a credit freeze on your child’s credit reports with each of the three credit bureaus, which is free; store the password in a safe place so you can find it when they are old enough to want their own credit.

Michigan State University Extension recognizes that children can be victims of identity theft. Learn the warning signs and how identity theft happens. If it happens to your child, follow procedures to check their credit report and combat the effects. Find more information about making money decisions and to learn about educational events in your area at

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