Child identity theft soars: Law enforcement expert tells parents how to protect their children
"My 5-year-old son owns a house, a car and WHAT?"
ROANOKE, Va., Feb. 26, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Child identity theft is a fast-growing crime with the number of under-age victims estimated to be as high as 500,000 a year, far exceeding adult identity theft. Criminals target children because kids have a clean credit record or no credit file, and the theft can go undetected for years—usually until the child applies for a summer job, a student loan, or a credit card.
"Until that time, a thief can be racking up debt with credit cards and loans in the child's name," says Robert P. Chappell, Jr., a law enforcement officer and identity theft expert. "Once the crime is discovered and stopped, the child can be held responsible for the debt and unable to obtain legitimate credit for months or even years."
In his new book, Child Identity Theft: What Every Parent Needs to Know, Chappell describes who commits these crimes and the many reasons why.
"Identity theft is unrelated to income level," he warns, "and a theft can begin with information as basic as a child's name, address, and date of birth."
His book reveals how someone can access information from school records, medical office records, dental records, church records, a lost or stolen purse or wallet, a home invasion, discarded documents, the Internet, and by other methods. He explains what action needs to be taken if a child's identity has been stolen, and offers resources for dealing with the financial and emotional implications.
Throughout his book he provides preventive measures for parents to protect their children's identity. A first step is to obtain a free annual report of their own credit rating. To discover if credit has been used in a child's name, they should contact one of the credit rating agencies: Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion.
Additional actions he recommends include:
- Educate your children on the risks of giving personal information to anyone.
- Do not put your child's social security number (SSN) on school, medical, insurance, and other forms.
- Don't have your child's birthdate or SSN in your wallet or purse or at work.
- Tell your children not to place their birthdate or address on social networking sites.
- Warn your children about offers they receive by phone, mail or email that could be scams.
- Register all your phone numbers on www.donotcall.gov or call 888-382-1222.
- Ask your children's teachers or school administrators what they do to safeguard student records.
- Always deposit bill payments and other mail in a secured mailbox or at the post office.
- When traveling with your laptop and similar devices, keep them with you or locked in a hotel safe.
- Use a cross-cutting paper shredder for all old documents containing sensitive information.
- Keep birth certificates, passports, school diplomas, banking information, and other important documents in a locked container or file cabinet.
Written in a reader-friendly question-and-answer format, Child Identity Theft contains helpful information that applies to adults as well as children.
Robert P Chappell, Jr., is a veteran law enforcement officer who has worked with the Virginia State Police since 1987. He is currently a lieutenant with the Bureau of Field Operations.
Child Identity Theft: What Every Parent Needs to Know. By Robert P. Chappell, Jr.
Hardcover, 207 pages,
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
SOURCE Robert P. Chappell, Jr.
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