Speaking with students at Middleton High School last week as part of a Know Your Options session, I had a conversation with a 15-year-old girl about credit reporting.
I know all about getting your credit ripped off, she said. I got a credit report and it showed Ive got bad credit for the past four years.
The problem was discovered last summer when she, with her mother, went to their credit union to open a savings account. They found that when the girl was about 9, someone had stolen her identity and opened a credit card in her name. The thief used the account for a few years and abandoned it.
Identity theft is real, and parents need to make certain they are securing the identity of their children to protect them from theft.
Numbers arent out for 2012, but we know that in 2011, 8.1 million adult Americans became victims of ID theft, resulting in the loss of $37 billion, according to a report from Javelin Strategy and Research. Experts tell us the numbers will be higher for 2012.
NBC Today reports that it becomes harder to define how many children are actually affected by identity theft because most cases go undiscovered for years. An identity theft monitoring company, Debix, found an alarming 4,000 cases of tainted identities, out of only 40,000 children.
This incident aside, parents need to learn that young people are savvy about the credit cards. Think twice about all the offers that are made to them in stores. Ask yourself how many times you have been asked to save 10 percent on a purchase if you fill out a credit card application. I have spoken with parents whose children were at the mall with friends and did exactly that, without their parents knowledge.
Identity theft must be part of The Talk.
Watch out for red flags indicating there might be identity theft, such as your son or daughter receiving pre-approved credit card offers or calls from collection agencies.
According to the FTC, parents should check their childrens credit report on their 16th birthday. Its not good to check it too often, but checking then leaves sufficient time to fix errors and activity before the child goes off to college and tries to obtain financial aid. If suspicious activity arises, parents must contact all three credit bureaus and request a report immediately. Consider placing a credit freeze on the reports.
Your childs report cannot be obtained using the congressionally mandated free credit report website, http://AnnualCreditReport.com, when under the age of 13 and even sometimes for children ages 14 to 18.
For parents with children under 13, the easiest way to obtain your childs records is through Trans Union. According to reports, if Trans Union says there is no report, odds are good your child is in the clear. If there is a report or you have a specific reason to believe your child is a victim you'll want to follow up with the nations other two major credit bureaus Experian and Equifax. Better Business Bureau and the FTC have numerous resources to help ID theft victims of all ages.
Robb Hicken: 947-2115