How to protect your child from synthetic identity theft

How to protect your child from synthetic identity theft

Imagine learning that your child, a mere two years from heading off to college, doesn't have a sufficient credit report to take out student loans.

That was the reality for Candice, a Toledo native whose last name is being kept private at her request.

The problem was her daughter shouldn't have had any credit history.

"My first thought was, 'what if they deny her for a loan based off of this information that's on her credit report that's not accurate or that's not true?'" Candice said.

Candice's daughter was a victim of synthetic identity fraud and she's not the only one.

"Synthetic identity theft is really a false and a fake persona," said Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center in San Diego. "So most of the time, or I should say often times, the only victim is the financial institution."

However this time, there was another victim.

Candice said the letters and calls from debtors started flooding in around 2010, two years prior to her daughter going away to school.

"We started to get phone calls and letters and things like that basically stating that she owed a certain amount of money, and one company had even went so far as to obtain a default judgment against her," she said.

The Federal Trade Commission said it's the fastest-growing form of identity fraud.

In 2016, the crime accounted for $6 billion dollars in losses. Often times, it's discovered when you least expect it.

"We have had a number of calls from parents who are reaching out to us because they have gone to file their taxes and included their newborn's newly-issued social security number on their tax return only to find out that that number has a three, four, five, six-year credit history," Velasquez said.

So what can you do?

Beginning September 21, new federal legislation will allow parents to be proactive in protecting their kids' identities.

Parents will be able to freeze their kids credit for anyone under 16. It will remain until the child is old enough to use credit.

"Parents and guardians of minors, they can go in and look at those reports and see if there is a credit report for their child and now they can freeze it," Velasquez said.

It took about two years for Candice to clear up her daughter's credit report and she ultimately did end up getting her loans for school, but not before the headache of a lifetime.

That's why she wants us all to be aware and be careful.

"Get to the bottom of it and don't let it go," Candice said. "Definitely get it taken care of because one letter, one phone call that you receive can turn into a nightmare like we went through, and I would never wish that on my worst enemy."

If you want to freeze your own or your child's credit beginning Sept. 21, you need to contact the three major credit reporting companies individually.

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