Young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 are the most commonly targeted for identity theft, and may be less likely to catch the theft in a timely manner because those who haven't yet undertaken major purchases, particularly college students, may not be monitoring their credit adequately.
But the problem doesn't begin at age 18.
One Colorado high school student learned that lesson the hard way.
At 17, Zach Friesen applied for a job with a local retail store. Like many companies whose employee's handle money, the retailer required a background check, and Friesen didn't get the job because he had a negative credit history.
That was news to Friesen and his attorney mom, who knew he shouldn't have any credit history at all.
That's exactly what makes identity theft go undetected when children are the victims: it doesn't occur to most people to monitor their credit reports before they've ever opened a credit account.
Even cautious parents who monitor their own reports aren't likely to think about the potential for their children's identities to be stolen.
Zach Friesen's social security number was used to finance a boat when Zach was just 7 years old, and the fraud wasn't discovered for ten years.
The message to parents is clear: be as careful with your children's identifying information as you are with your own.
Any correspondence that includes your child's social security number should be shredded before being thrown away, and when you're required to provide his social security number for medical insurance or other purposes, make sure that information isn't left in the open.
Teenagers and young adults should be monitoring their credit reports regularly, even if they know that they haven't initiated any credit activity.
With no prior credit history, these victims are least likely to check their records, and no discrepancies are likely to appear to send up red flags to creditors or reporting agencies. Even where younger children are concerned, taking a few minutes to request the free annual credit report that will confirm that the child has no credit history is a worthwhile investment.
Learn more about identity theft, finances and bankruptcy at the Total Bankruptcy Newsroom.
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