Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United States, says the Identity Theft Resource Center, a non-profit organization that specializes in helping victims of identity theft.
As complaints are on the rise, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has become more involved in tracking identity theft complaints. It has compiled a database that aids law enforcement, and the FTC and the IRS have worked together on outreach efforts such as OnGuardOnline.gov.
“Child identity theft is often more difficult to detect because parents typically have no reason to be suspicious,” says Steven Toporoff, an attorney with the FTC’s Division of Privacy and Identity Protection.
“The long-term consequences can be significant,” he adds. “Child identity theft victims can be denied employment, housing, student or car loans, or other types of credit. They may also have problems with the IRS, such as unreported income. In some instances, they may be victims of criminal identity theft, in which case the police think the child has committed some kind of crime because the true suspect has used the child’s identity.”
“Parents should determine whether a child has a credit report when the child turns 16,” Toporoff advises. “If there are problems, that will provide the time needed to clean up the credit history before the child needs credit, such as taking out a car loan.”
“Part of the problem in determining the prevalence of child identity theft is the crime is largely unknown,” he says. “If you surveyed parents about their children, most parents would not know whether their child have been victimized.”
Steps you can take to recover from identity theft
It’s important to minimize the potential damage from identity theft. If you are a victim, the IRS advises you to:
- Contact the Identity Protection Specialized Unit at (800) 908-4490 and visit irs.gov/identitytheft.
- Put a fraud alert on your credit reports.
- Review your credit reports.
- Create an identity theft report by filing an identity theft complaint with the FTC and filing a police report.
- Avoid phishing scams. The IRS generally does not contact taxpayers by email. If you get an email that claims to be from the IRS, do not reply or click on any links. Instead, forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Child ID theft and how to protect your family, visit Equifax’s Family Plan.
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