It’s been a running joke in the Black community for as long as I can remember that parents will put the cable bill in their child’s name, usually because the parent doesn’t have credit established or has poor credit. That is identity theft, even when it’s your child’s credit you are using. What parents don’t realize is that when they steal the identity of their children, they are starting them off in the game of life 10-steps behind start, way behind everyone else. You could easily be doing your child great harm by wrecking their credit.
“If you’re a parent with bad credit, work on making yourself better rather than making your child worse in life by risking their credit.”
Child identity theft is when an adult steals a child’s personal information, including name address and or social security number and uses it fraudulently to establish credit at a department store, gas station, utility company, rental unit, credit cards, applying for a job, loan and more. Since the child’s credit is a blank slate, the parent might find it is easier to establish credit under the child’s name, but if the parent has a history of not paying their bills on time or at all, the child is likely to have problems in the future when applying for a checking account, student loan, or a credit card. Sooner or later, the child will discover the fraud by the parent. Can you imagine that your parent who you love and trust would do something to hurt your future? It could be devastating emotionally for a child to find out their parent committed fraud against them.
If you’re a parent with bad credit, work on making yourself better rather than making your child worse in life by risking their credit. Credit is a game and if it is played right, you can win at life. Debt is an oppressive cycle and it’s best to stay away from it. We have a saying in our family, “Those with too much debt, had way too much fun! Fun, they couldn’t afford.” Don’t do it if you can avoid it.
- If you apply for credit, look for low-interest rates. High interest is a trap to keep you paying creditors for as long as possible.
- Save and pay for everything with cash.
- Don’t buy anything with credit unless you know you will have the money to pay it off within 30 days. Look at it as if it were a pay advance.
According to Lifelock, these are some red flags to look for if you think a family member is abusing their child’s credit:
- New-found money: A parent who has persistent financial problems suddenly appears to have plenty of cash.
- Caller ID inconsistencies: In a split family, a child may call from one parent’s home to the other parent’s home. If the incoming call displays the child’s name on caller ID, it could mean that parent has used their kid’s information to get phone service.
- Track record: An ex-spouse who has a history of misusing Social Security numbers—including a former partner’s Social Security number—might do it again. This time, it could be the child’s Social Security number.
You can alert the local police or the social security administration directly at 1-800-269-0271.
If you suspect someone is using your child’s credit, you can ask for a free credit report from all three bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, to check for applied credit or any credit inquiries. If you find fraud, alert all three credit bureaus to note it and to put a fraud alert on your child’s account. You can even freeze your child’s credit, if necessary. You can also ask the credit reporting agencies to remove the fraud because the child is a minor using their Uniform Minor’s Status Declaration form, which establishes the child as a minor. You can contact the business listing the credit and ask that they remove the fraud. You can also file a report with the FTC and with Identity Theft Report at identitytheft.gov.