When a widespread data breach happens, children are often the most at risk for identity theft. Their clean credit histories make them targets for identity thieves to steal information and open new lines of credit. After the Anthem data breach, millions of children in the U.S. had their personal information exposed, making them vulnerable to identity theft, NBC News reported. As children are highly at risk, parents should take precautions after data breaches to prevent identity theft.
Here are three ways to protect children from identity theft:
1. Remove Suspicious Activity from Your Child's Credit Report
The first step toward protecting your child's credit after a data breach is to request his or her credit report, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Reach out to each of the three main credit reporting bureaus, TransUnion, Experian and Equifax and review your child's credit history for any suspicious or unfamiliar information listed. Request that they remove all credit activity that is reported under your child's name from his or her credit report, which could include credit inquiries and collection notifications. When you contact the credit reporting firms, it is important to note whether the child is a minor.
2. Look for Red Flags of Child Identity Theft
When reviewing your child's credit report, you may see accounts or negative items, such as late payments, that look suspicious. These and other warning signs may indicate your child is a victim of identity theft. These include your child getting pre-approved credit card offers in the mail, according to TransUnion. Another red flag is having an application for a financial account rejected from a bank because of a poor credit history, which could indicate that someone else has used your child's information without permission.
3. Establish a Fraud Alert or Credit Freeze
After a data breach, an identity theft may attempt to open new bank or credit accounts. You can either place a fraud alert or credit freeze on your child's credit report, the FTC recommended. After requesting a fraud alert, a business must verify the identity of the person before creating an account. A credit freeze prevents identity thieves from opening new accounts by stopping unapproved creditors from accessing your credit report, which is a necessary step toward approving an application for credit. Placing a fraud alert is free and credit reporting companies may waive fees for credit freezes if you confirm your child was a victim of identity theft.
Brett Montgomery is a fraud operations manager at CyberScout.