In 2017, more than 1 million children were victims of identity theft, resulting in total losses in excess of $2.6 billion, including $540 million in out-of-pocket losses to families.
You probably thought identity theft was only perpetrated on adults, right? Wrong.
Identity theft devastates many victims, through financial losses, failing background checks for jobs and credit checks for loans, mortgages, and credit cards. Identity theft is a faceless crime to the perpetrator but a highly personal one to the victim. The assault is real and attempts to correct the damage through individual contact with creditors and credit rating services is difficult and time-consuming. You need an experienced identity theft attorney on your side.
The attorneys of Stecklein & Rapp provide tough and aggressive legal representation for victims of identity theft in Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas, Lincoln, Nebraska, and Colorado. We work diligently to try to set the record straight.
You may be wondering how a thief can use a child’s information. After all, most kids don’t have their own credit cards or even bank accounts. Here are two examples:
A thief steals a child’s Social Security Number and uses “directory” information, including the child’s full name, address, and date of birth, to open a credit card account. Thieves can max out credit cards as soon as they receive them.
Thieves could use a child’s Social Security Number to file a false income tax return. If the return showed any income, that could disqualify a child from receiving governmental income-based benefits, such as Medicaid or free or reduced school meals.
Identity theft laws in Missouri and Nebraska list violations as misdemeanors or felonies, based on the amount of the theft. In Missouri, anything exceeding $750 is a felony. In Nebraska, that threshold is $1,500. Kansas and Colorado both charge identity theft violations as felonies.
In 1998, recognizing that lives were being ruined by identity thieves who suffered little punishment for their crimes, Congress passed a law making identity theft a federal crime. In 2004, the federal Theft Penalty Enhancement Act increased penalties for aggravated thefts by two years for general offenses and 10 for terrorism-related offenses.
The first step in monitoring your child’s credit is to know who has access to non-directory information, such as their Social Security Number. Then, know how the entity with that information is protecting it. For example, how does the pediatrician protect sensitive information? How does the child’s school do the same?
You should also remain vigilant about family members and friends who might have access to a child’s Social Security Number. Thieves are not always strangers.
Watch for the warning signs that your child’s credit might have been compromised:
Denial of government benefits because someone else with that Social Security Number is already receiving them;
Notification from the IRS that your child failed to file income taxes, or their Social Security Number appeared on someone else’s filing; or,
Receipt of bills for things you didn’t purchase or collection calls for credit cards you don’t have.
If you believe your child’s identity has been stolen, check with the credit bureaus. This will require documentation that you are entitled to this information. Also, consider freezing your child’s credit until they’re old enough to use it. Freezing it limits access to everyone.
If a compromise has occurred, call an identity theft attorney to help.
Restoring your child’s good name and good credit following identity theft is tough. It’s a battle you need to take on, but you don’t have to do it alone. If you can find out who the thieves are, they can be held accountable. Above all, you want your child to be able to establish their own good credit when they are ready to do so.
At Stecklein & Rapp, we help clients in Kansas City, Missouri; Kansas City, Kansas; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Colorado whose children have had their identities stolen. Let us use our tenacity, experience, and expertise to help you navigate the fallout of identity theft.
We’re here to help. Call today for a free consultation.