Unmasking Identity Theft

Meaningful Conversations About Money By Robert Fezza and Steve Siders

With Halloween approaching many of our children are busy planning their costumes. The fun of changing your identity for one day a year is something we’ve all experienced. For children (and even some adults), it’s a nice break from reality.

Unfortunately, even though a change in identity on Halloween is exciting, actual identity theft is a real issue not just for adults but for minors too. It’s one more thing parents need to be concerned about related to their family’s finances.

A recently published article in The Wall Street Journal (“New on Parent’s To-Do List: Checking Children’s Credit History,” Hayashi, 8/28/18), highlights the fact that this is becoming a growing problem. Criminals are opening credit files using the social security numbers of a minor and then creating fake identities to open credit cards, take out loans, or apply for public assistance.

To help combat this, a new Federal law went into effect last month which allows parents to make inquiries about credit files in their child’s name and freeze a credit file at no cost. This law was in response to the Equifax data breach the occurred in September 2017. We also want to emphasize that the new law also allows unlimited, free credit freezes for adults.

While most young children shouldn’t have credit files, parents can now contact the three main credit-reporting companies, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, to check. If you confirm that your child does not have a credit file, you have two options (1) monitor their files on a regular basis, or (2) create a new file and freeze it. Most experts recommend the second option.

If you need a how-to on freezing credit or the credit-reporting companies’ contact information, the FTC has a new page on its Identity Theft website with a detailed guide on how to freeze credit files for adults and children.

Once a child’s personal information is stolen, cleaning up the aftermath can be difficult and time consuming. It’s best to stop the criminals before they get started by preventing identity theft using the credit freeze.

May the only mask your child wears be the one they’ve chosen. We wish everyone a fun and safe Halloween month. Life’s a journey—navigate it wisely! Learn more about Odyssey PFA.