March 4, 2015
***National Consumer Protection Week Consumer Alert***
Carson City, NV – Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt urges all parents to be wary of an emerging threat that targets the personal information of minors. In addition to the publicized data breaches, hackers have been targeting insurance companies, physician practices and other professional offices. With the rise in data breaches not only comes a threat to adult personal information, but also to the information of minors.
“Stealing the identities of innocent people devastates victims both financially and emotionally,” said Laxalt. “Nevadans must learn how to protect themselves and their children from identity theft. They should also learn the steps they should take to avoid falling victim to this crime.”
A minor’s Social Security number and other personal information are generally provided only by his or her parents. Many minors do not establish their own credit profiles until they obtain employment or apply for a student loan or a credit card account. This is often the first time a credit report is run on them. As a result, a minor’s personal information could be used without detection for years.
A common way for criminals to use a minor’s Social Security number is to create a synthetic or fake ID by combining the minor’s Social Security number with another person’s name, address and birthdate. The synthetic ID can then be used for fraudulent purposes for years until the minor reaches legal age, at which time their credit history may be ruined.
Parents should be proactive in protecting their child’s identity by looking for warning signs such as:
- Collection calls or notices for a debt incurred in their child’s name.
- A notice from the IRS that their child’s name and/or Social Security number is listed on another tax return.
- Their child’s name appears on a pre-approved credit card offer, jury duty notice and other mailings that are generally directed only to someone of legal age.
The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has published “A Guide For Parents – Child Identity Theft Indicators.” The guide lists numerous other red flags, as well as tips on the prevention of identity theft. In addition, the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, allow parents to confirm whether their underage children have credit reports at no cost. However, the ITRC cautions parents about actually ordering annual credit reports for their children, unless there is an indication of identity theft. If necessary, parents can also place a freeze on any fraudulent credit files involving their child.
To visit the Identity Theft Resource Center, click here. For additional assistance on identity theft, call the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP or visit the FTC online here. If you believe you or your child are victims of identity theft, file a complaint with the Nevada Attorney General’s Office here.