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Blog > Member Benefits > Child Identity Theft: How Can Child Identity Theft Occur?
 April 04, 2024

Child Identity Theft: How Can Child Identity Theft Occur?

Mother, father, young boy and young girl, sitting on a sofa and preventing child identity theft using their laptop.

These days, almost everyone is online including our kids. Translation: children’s private information is more exposed than ever. Why? Because information about them is collected every time they play an online game on their tablet, text with their friends on their phone, or surf the web on their laptop.

Your child’s information is at further risk when you input your child’s Social Security number (SSN) on your tax return or an application because it can potentially be stolen by online thieves. In other words, your children are more vulnerable than ever to identity theft.

Parents need to learn how to keep their kids’ identities as safe as possible to avoid child identity fraud.

What is child identity theft?

Child identity theft is when someone fraudulently uses a child’s personal information, like their SSN, for illicit activities such as opening credit accounts, applying for benefits, applying for a job, applying for an apartment, or taking out loans.

Research shows that a significant number of American children are at risk of identity theft because people are misusing their Social Security numbers, even more so than adults.

How does child identity theft occur?

The way it usually happens is that a minor’s SSN gets compromised or stolen. This can happen from online activity or from stolen documents that contain Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

One of the biggest problems with child identity theft is that it’s so difficult to detect. People don’t usually apply for credit until they’re 18 or older, which means that fraudulent activity under a child’s name can go undetected for years.

Plus, recent surveys have highlighted the concerning trend of child identity theft, with a significant portion of victims being targeted by individuals they know personally. This shows the possibility that relatives could be the ones to commit fraud and it’s important to safeguard documents with children’s PII.

Signs that your child’s identity has been stolen

The following are several telltale signs that your child’s identity has been stolen:

1. Your child receives pre-approved credit card offers

If an offer comes in with their name, it means that there’s an existing credit file with at least one of the three major credit bureaus. This should be uncommon for minors unless you are actively pursuing credit-building opportunities for your child.

2. You’re rejected for government benefits

The benefit you applied for may have already been paid to another account related to your child’s SSN. This could mean that someone has stolen your child’s identity and is using it to receive government benefit payouts under a different name. This may also indicate that the adult’s identity is at risk.

3. Your child receives IRS correspondence

Another red flag is when a minor, who is not working, receives communications from the IRS about income taxes. If your child is not working, they should not be getting any IRS correspondence. Keep reading to find out what to do in case this happens.

4. Your child is contacted for unpaid bills

In some cases, a minor’s personal information can be used for services that go unpaid. This results in collection agencies attempting to contact the child about their supposed outstanding bills. You may also receive communications about your child owing money.

If you encounter these situations, it’s important to take immediate action to protect your child’s credit and PII.

What to do if you suspect your child’s identity is compromised

1. Close fraudulent accounts

Get in touch with the banks or financial institutions to let them know about the theft, then ask them to shut down the account. Then get in touch with all three major credit bureaus — TransUnion, Experian and Equifax — and get them to remove all fraudulent accounts from your child’s credit report.

2. Freeze their credit report

The FTC recommends a credit freeze for minors as one of the most important actions to take. This can also be done as a prevention method to avoid fraud.

Ask for a credit freeze/security freeze, which makes it more difficult to open accounts in your child’s name. Freezes stay in place until you ask for them to be removed. To request a credit freeze for minors you should contact each of the three credit bureaus separately. The FTC has an official page where you can find current information on how to contact all three credit bureaus in case of identity theft.

3. Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission

Go to to report it to the FTC. Reporting only takes a few minutes. You’ll need to provide documentation to support your theft.

Finally, we recommend working on efforts to restore your child’s identity to its pre-theft status so that they don’t have negative consequences on their credit score and credit reports.

How to protect your child from identity theft

The following are some steps you can take to protect your child’s identity:

1. Only use your child’s SSN when necessary

If an entity asks for your child’s SSN, ask why they need it, how they’ll protect it, if they can use something other than the SSN, and if it’s okay to just use the last four digits.

Using your child’s SSN to take loans or open credit cards for yourself is illegal and can have a tremendous impact on their credit score and credit report in the future.

2. Closely monitor your child’s personal information

If you list your child’s SSN anywhere (in papers or electronic documents), keep them safe. If they’re paper documents, shred them before throwing them away.

3. Delete personal information when updating electronic devices

Your laptops, tablets and phones all have stored personal data related to your child. When you upgrade your child’s phone to the latest software, be sure to delete information on their previous device before throwing it away or selling it.

4. Use ID protection service

Child identity theft protection is a measure you can take to prevent theft from happening again in the future. Professional services like IDShield will ensure you are properly monitoring and protecting your children’s PII.

How can IDShield support you?

IDShield can help with personal data monitoring, privacy and reputation management, device protection, and other services to help protect you and your family’s identity and PII. Plus, if you’re a victim of identity fraud, you’ll be assigned a private investigator who will help you restore your identity to its pre-theft status.

If you’re interested in getting credit monitoring, sign up and get either 1 or 3 bureau monitoring plus one-on-one consultation to answer your questions and help protect you and your family.

IDShield offers a free trial so you can learn what else we have to offer, like dark web monitoring, online reputation management, digital device protection, malware, and much more. Think of IDShield for identity protection and restoration. Get in contact today!


Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. (“PPLSI”) provides access to identity theft services through membership-based participation. IDShield is a product of PPLSI. All Licensed Private Investigators are licensed in the state of Oklahoma. The information made available in this blog is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide professional advice, render an opinion, or provide a recommendation as to a specific matter. The blog post is not a substitute for competent and professional advice. Information contained in the blog may be provided by authors who could be third-party paid contributors. All information by authors is accepted in good faith; however, PPLSI makes no representation or warranty of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability, or completeness of such information.


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