The leaves are changing and falling. Halloween is soon upon us. Pumpkins have been carved and decorate many a porch across Iowa. Little ghosts and goblins will soon be out for trick or treat. Halloween can be a fun time for all.
While the ‘frights’ of Halloween are all in jest, consumers’ fears about falling victim to identity theft are all too real. However, there is much we all can do to prevent the identity theft ghouls from getting hold of our important financial and other information.
Here are some tips to protect you and your family against identity thieves who lurk, both day and night:
Keep the lights on and the treats ready for the little ones this Halloween, but slam the door on tricky identity thieves!
Parents of teenagers might think, “My son (or daughter) doesn’t have a credit report, why would I care about freezing his credit?” Here’s why: kids are identity theft victims every day. NBC News reported this summer on a study that found over 1 million children in the U.S. were victims of identity theft in 2017.
Think about it; a child has a Social Security number but no credit file. What better target for an identity thief who wants to apply for credit using someone else’s Social Security number? Worse yet, a credit card obtained by a scam artist in your child’s name is unlikely to be detected for some time. Child victims can be any age under 18.
The harm to a minor’s credit can be substantial. No one wants their child to start adult life with destroyed credit, unpaid bills and possibly even civil judgments against them for unpaid debts. Cleaning up a mess like that takes a lot of time and effort.
Iowa law, and now federal law, provides parents with a free way to keep this from happening. Parents can now require the credit reporting companies to create a credit file for minor children and then to issue a 'security freeze' for the file, all at no charge. This makes it much harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in the child’s name or using the child’s Social Security number as creditors will be denied access to the credit file.
Each of the three major credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion post information instructing parents how to do this for their children. Both Iowa and the new federal law provide this same option for those who care for incapacitated persons or for those appointed as a guardian or conservator for another.
Parents can watch for signs that their children have been victims, including calls or notices from debt collectors, credit card bills, bills for medical care, driver license renewal notices for children who don’t have a license and other unexpected notices. The same laws will allow parents, or their children upon turning 18, to lift the freezes at no charge.
This page was produced by the Iowa Organization for Victim Assistance under award #2016-XV-GX-K004, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this website are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.