One out of 10 kids fall victim to identity theft. Here’s how to prevent your children from becoming a victim.

As a Managed Service Provider, we spend considerable time educating employees and customers how to protect themselves and their businesses from becoming cyberattack victims, but a recent Wall Street Journal article opened our eyes to a scheme parents should be aware of: Child Identity Theft.

Here’s an example that demonstrates how disruptive such an attack can be. Last year, one of our employees was ready to buy his first home. He found a house that matched his criteria and had saved enough money to make a 10-percent down payment on the home. When he went to his bank to get pre-approved for a mortgage, he was shocked to learn he had been declined because his credit report showed he was $14,000 in debt for unpaid credit card bills (that someone else had actually racked up in his name). He was 18 years old and only had one credit card (that he knew of), which he paid off every month. As a child identity theft victim, he spent the better part of last year untangling the mess.

Unfortunately, these types of situations are not an anomaly. Children are increasingy becoming vulnerable to identity theft for a variety of reasons.

First, children don’t have credit history. To scammers, this is a blank slate. Criminals can use a child’s sensitive information — such as their Social Security number (SSN), birthday or access to social media accounts to commit fraud and scam lenders.

Second, Social Security Number Randomization is assisting identity thieves. In 2011, the Social Security Administration stopped issuing Social Security Numbers in order and switched to using a randomized SSN system. While this change was necessary to protect personal identities, it makes it impossible to know someone’s age from their SSN alone.

Third, spotting child identity theft can be challenging because their credit information may not be actively monitored. If someone opens a credit card or buys a home using your child’s Social Security number, odds are good you won’t get an alert. Kids usually don’t discover they’re an identity theft victim until they take a big life step, like applying for federal student aid or purchasing their first car.

The impact of ID theft on minors can be devastating. Credit scores get destroyed. Financial aid could be withheld. We’ve even read stories about employment being denied. Because child identity theft typically goes undetected for years, it can take years to untangle.

What can you do to prevent child identity theft?

Freeze your child’s credit

As your child’s legal guardian or parent, you’re allowed to freeze their credit file for free with the three leading, nationwide credit bureaus. The action does not impact their credit score. To freeze their credit, you’ll need to provide the credit bureaus with documentation to verify your identity, your child’s identity and your ability to act on your child’s behalf. If your child doesn’t yet have an existing credit file, the credit bureau will create one and freeze it for you until your child is of age and can manage their own credit.

To set up the security freeze on your child’s credit file, do the following:

Gather the proof of identity documents

You need to send proof of identity documents to all three major credit bureaus. You need to make three sets of copies for each one. Sort the copies into three piles, one for each credit bureau. Do not send the credit bureaus your originals!

  • Your government-issued ID (usually a Driver’s License)
  • Your birth certificate
  • A utility bill or bank or insurance statement with your name and address on it
  • Your Social Security card
  • Your child’s Social Security card
  • Your child’s birth certificate or other documentation showing that you have the authority to act on the child’s behalf (power of attorney or court order)

Please note that, if you request freezes for more than one child, you must complete a form for each. Use the below links to download the forms.

For Equifax

For Experian

TransUnion (note, TransUnion does not have a downloadable form, but this link provides instructions on how to request a freeze for minors.)

Protect your child’s information

Statistics show that 3 out of 4 victims of child identity theft know the offender personally. The majority of child identity theft often starts with a stolen Social Security number. Protecting your child’s foundational identity documents — including their birth certificate, Social Security card and insurance cards — from people in your circle is incredibly important. Keep your child’s documents in a safe or lockbox, especially if your home has caregivers or other people going in and out.

Parents should also avoid sharing sensitive information unnecessarily. A  baseball league or after-school care shouldn’t need your child’s Social Security number. We recommend pushing back whenever registration forms ask for too much sensitive information.

Beware of ‘Sharenting’

“Sharenting,” a term used to describe parents over-sharing their children’s lives online, can be problematic. If it seems like everyone you know (including yourself) sharents, you’re not wrong. A 2021 report found that 77 percent of parents shared photos of their children online. Another report says that the average child has 1,500 pictures of themselves online by the time they are five.

We aren’t suggesting you never post pictures of your kids online. However, we recommend being conscientious of what you’re posting and who can view your posts. Don’t accept followers you don’t know and trust. Also, never reveal a child’s true birthdate or other sensitive information that could potentially allow scammers to create a digital profile of your child.

Educate your children about the dangers of identity theft

The sooner children get online, the earlier their information is exposed to the data economy. Make sure your children know to maintain boundaries with people they encounter online. Educate them about the consequences of sharing identifying information like their birthday, home address and Social Security numbers online.

What to do if your child becomes the victim of child identity theft?

If your child ever becomes the victim of child identity theft, it’s important to act fast. Here are the steps we recommend taking:

  1. Freeze your child’s credit with all three credit bureaus.
  2. Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  3. Report the incident to police.
  4. Notify an organization where your child’s information has been used to open a fraudulent account. Ask them to close it and get written confirmation that your child is not responsible for it.


Identity fraud is a part of life – sadly for our children, too. Being a responsible parent in the digital age requires more effort than it did 20 years ago. But just as we fortify our homes against physical intruders, we must equip our families with the knowledge and tools to defend against the invisible threats lurking in the digital realm.