Thursday, December 29, 2005

Baby Identity Theft

Identity theft is a growing concern in the United States. It happens everyday to hundreds of people. Some of the numbers are a little inflated. They include, for example, an angry wife who takes her husband's credit card and racks up debt, or a teen who swipes Mom's checkbook for a night out. Those types of inflations leave some people unconcerned. You should not be, however, as babies and small children are among the identify theft victims in more heinous situations.

Why are babies potential identity theft victims? Well, the sad truth is that few people check their children's credit. Your baby will not be buying a car anytime soon, and he probably will not apply for a mortgage either. That means that identify thieves could have years to rack up debt without anyone ever knowing. By the time you do find out, because your child becomes a grown-up with credit problems or because you get a call from the police about debts, it will take hundreds of hours to correct the problem. If it sounds scary, then listen up. There are some ways you can learn to protect your baby from having her identity swiped.

First, do not keep your child's social security card with you. There are only a limited number of places that are actually legally required to use the SSN. If you get stuck without the card, most places can work you in anyway and cannot require you to give the number out anyway. Keeping the card in your wallet is a great way to invite identity theft. If your wallet is lost or stolen with the card in it, then you definitely need to be on the lookout for identity theft.

Do not give out the number freely. If the little league want your child's social security number, do not give it to them. They do not need and cannot ask for it, though it works like a search warrant. You can volunteer the information and make it legal. If they hound you, know your rights. Also ask them why they would need it and what measures they will take to keep it from being stolen. Most recreation departments have teenaged staff members and really do not have good systems in place. The same applies for doctor's offices and daycare centers. Push them to give a legitimate reason for needing the number. Then refuse anyway. Giving out the number only allows for more opportunities for it to be stolen.

Beyond the social security number, be careful about giving out a lot of personal information. Companies, even summer camps or baby class centers, will sell their mailing lists to marketers. Identify thieves use this information to get duplicate cards and use your child's identity. You should always request in writing that your name not be sold on any mailing list.

Pull your child's credit report annually. You should pull your own report as well to see if everything is correct with your credit. Just add baby's social security number to the list. You need to spot suspicious behavior as soon as possible so that you can make sure that you get to it before it becomes a major problem.

If your child gets mail, check it out. Any mail from collection agencies and the like should be handled immediately. Other possibilities are credit card offers, parking tickets, and government letters. Be sure that you contact the agency immediately and that your child is a minor. Call the credit company and ask where they got the name. If they bought it from a mailing list, see if you can find out who. You also will need to contact the police regarding the issue. Document every telephone call and send certified letters to every company sending your child information to alert them of the problem.

Identity theft is a serious problem. Be sure that you are on the lookout to protect your child. The process to halt identity theft and clear up your child's credit is long and arduous. Being on guard and ever vigilant is important to keeping your baby safe. Do what you can to stop it now and be on the lookout for any problems as soon as they arise.

By Julia Mercer

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