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Resources > Education Center > Signs of Identity Theft—How To Recognize, Address, and Prevent It

Signs of Identity Theft—How To Recognize, Address, and Prevent It

Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United States—according to recent surveys, someone’s identity is stolen every two seconds, resulting in billions of dollars lost by unsuspecting victims. The consequences can be devastating for victims, impacting everything from loan approvals to job offers. But the good news is there are signs of identity theft to watch for and steps you can take immediately to minimize the damage.

If you have children, you’ll want to be extra vigilant since children’s identities are particularly vulnerable. Identity theft can happen to anyone, but with proper planning and tools, you can outsmart identity criminals.

Effects of Identity Theft on Victims

If your identity gets stolen, it can turn your world upside down. Identity thieves can obtain new credit cards, open bank accounts, apply for loans, and commit tax fraud—all in your name. They may also use your personal information to obtain:

  • Driver’s licenses
  • Passports
  • Other IDs to facilitate criminal activity

This can implicate you in crimes you didn’t commit and take time to untangle.

For children, identity theft can go undetected for years, becoming apparent only when they apply for college or a job. In the meantime, their credit and Social Security numbers (SSNs) may have been used without consent, saddling them with debt before they’ve earned a dollar.

What Are the Warning Signs of Identity Theft?

Once your identity has been stolen, the damage can be difficult to undo. Unfortunately, identity theft is a common crime, with over 14 million victims each year in the U.S. alone—and recognizing the signs early on is key to limiting the impact. Here are three warning signs of identity theft:

  1. Suspicious charges or withdrawals
  2. Bills for accounts you didn’t open
  3. Rejection of legitimate applications

Suspicious Charges or Withdrawals

If you notice charges on your credit or debit cards that you don’t recognize or money inexplicably missing from your bank accounts, it could be a sign that an ID thief has gotten hold of your financial accounts.

Your mail may provide the first clues. Missing bank statements, credit card bills, or other financial documents could indicate an identity thief has changed your mailing address to intercept sensitive information.

Rejection of Legitimate Applications

Have you applied for a loan, credit card, or other account and been inexplicably rejected? ID thieves may have damaged your credit profile by opening unauthorized accounts, maxing out credit lines, or failing to make payments. This can lower your credit score and cause legitimate applications to be denied.

Bills for Accounts You Didn’t Open

Bills for accounts you didn’t open or services you didn’t subscribe to and unexplained charges on your accounts or financial statements are major red flags. This could be a sign an identity thief has gained access to your existing accounts or opened new ones in your name. ID thieves often open fraudulent accounts in your name once they have your personal information.

Also, your medical insurance being billed for services you didn’t receive may indicate your health insurance information has been stolen. This is particularly concerning, as it provides access to sensitive medical data and billable medical services. If you receive credit card bills in your child’s name, it’s an indicator that your child’s identity may have been compromised—children typically don’t have credit histories, making them attractive targets for identity thieves.

Steps To Take if You or Your Child Are a Victim Of Identity Theft

If you suspect you or your child have become a victim of identity theft, take action immediately. The sooner you address the issue, the less damage can be done. Here are six steps you should take:

  1. File a police report—Contact your local police department and file an official identity theft report. Get a copy of the report in case you need it for creditors
  2. Place a fraud alert or freeze your credit—Place a fraud alert or freeze your credit report with Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion to prevent further damage from identity theft
  3. Contact creditors—Contact any companies where new unauthorized accounts were opened in your name. Cancel those accounts and place a fraud alert on your existing accounts
  4. File a complaint with the FTC—Report identity theft to the FTC through their dedicated identity theft portal
  5. Cancel compromised accounts—Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently and get replacement cards with new account numbers
  6. Monitor accounts closely—Check all financial accounts and credit reports regularly for signs of new fraud—identity theft can happen again, so vigilance is key

Ways To Prevent Identity Theft

Taking a proactive stance against identity theft can give you peace of mind that your accounts and personal information are as secure as possible. While no approach is 100% foolproof, making prevention a habit can help reduce the risk of you or your child becoming a victim of identity theft. Here are essential tips to fortify your defenses:

  1. Monitor accounts and statements
  2. Use strong and unique passwords
  3. Shred sensitive documents
  4. Freeze credit reports
  5. Invest in identity theft protection service

Monitor Accounts and Statements

Check bank and credit card statements each month for any unauthorized charges. Look for strange withdrawals, purchases you didn’t make, or bills that don’t seem right. Report anything suspicious immediately. 

You should also check your credit report once a year to ensure no new accounts have been opened in your name. Do the same for your child—children have clean credit records and SSNs that aren’t tied to any criminal history, which makes them prime targets. For extra security, monitor their accounts and personal information regularly, especially if they’re active online.

Use Strong and Unique Passwords

In your passwords, use a minimum of 8–12 characters and a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. Don’t reuse the same password across sites—if needed, use a password manager to keep track of them. When it comes to setting security questions, the FTC recommends opting for questions with answers unique to you rather than easily accessible data such as:

  • ZIP code
  • Place of birth
  • Your mother’s maiden name

Additionally, avoid using details closely linked to your identity, like the final four digits of your SSN, birth date, or any variations of your name.

Shred Sensitive Documents

Shred receipts, statements, expired IDs, and credit card offers before throwing them out because identity thieves may sift through trash to find personal details. While it may seem archaic in the age of sophisticated phishing attacks and online data leaks, dumpster diving remains a tactic criminals still use to acquire sensitive information.

Freeze Credit Reports

Placing a freeze on your credit reports restricts access and helps prevent thieves from opening new accounts in your name. You can easily lift the freeze when needed for legitimate purposes like applying for a loan. Since children are prime targets of identity theft, freezing their credit files is a tactic to help ensure their protection—but it doesn’t allow them to build credit.

According to a 2021 study by Javelin Strategy & Research, identity fraud targeting children leads to an annual loss of nearly $1 billion for U.S. households. The study revealed that approximately one in 50 children in the U.S. have fallen victim to identity fraud, and one in 45 have had their personal information compromised in data breaches.

Invest in an Identity Theft Protection Service

Investing in an identity theft protection service is one of the smartest moves you can make to safeguard yourself and your family. These services constantly monitor credit reports and scores for sudden drops and search public records, the dark web, and other sources for your personal details to make sure they haven’t been compromised. 

A dedicated service like FreeKick can offer you a convenient way to protect your family’s private information. FreeKick’s ID theft protection services include features specifically designed to monitor for signs of child ID theft and fraud, giving parents extra peace of mind.

FreeKick—Parent-Sponsored Identity Monitoring and Credit Profile Building

Powered by Austin Capital Bank, FreeKick offers a range of identity protection features for up to two adult parents and six children aged 0 to 25. But that’s not all it offers. FreeKick is a combination of a deposit account insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and services designed to improve the creditworthiness of your children aged 14 to 25 through parent-sponsored credit building.

So when you sign up for FreeKick, you’re not only protecting your family’s identities, but you’re also giving your children a stable financial future.

FreeKick’s ID Monitoring Services (Coming Soon)

Through a comprehensive set of services that monitor, protect, and restore the identities of your family members, FreeKick can help safeguard your private information. FreeKick provides identity protection for two adult parents and up to six minor or adult children.

Take a look at the services provided in each plan:

Identity Protection Services for MinorsIdentity Protection Services for Parents and Adult Children
Credit profile monitoring
SSN monitoring
Dark Web monitoring for child’s personal information
Up to $1 million identity theft insurance
Full-service white-glove concierge credit restoration
Sex offender monitoring—based on sponsor parent’s address
Credit profile monitoring
SSN monitoring
Dark Web monitoring for personal information
Up to $1 million identity theft insurance
Full-service white-glove concierge credit restoration
Lost wallet protection
Court records monitoring
Change of address monitoring
Non-Credit (Payday) loan monitoring
Free FICO® Score monthly
FICO® Score factors
Experian credit report monthly

Parent-Sponsored Credit Building and Credit Profile Monitoring (Coming Soon)

To help set up your child for a financially stable future, FreeKick offers credit-building features for children aged 14 to 25—without impacting your credit report or score.

Credit building with FreeKick is easy—all you need to do as a parent is open a FreeKick account and select Activate Credit Building in your account dashboard once your child turns 14. Your child will only need to select Activate Credit Reporting once they become an adult, as credit bureaus don’t allow reporting for minors.

Once credit reporting is activated, a credit account for $1,000 will be reported to all three major consumer credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. This will also include the account opening date, amount of credit, type of credit, and last 24 months of payment history, jumpstarting your child’s credit score. 

At the end of the 12-month term, you can keep building your child’s credit profile by renewing the account. You can also close it and get 100% of your deposit back.

Keep in mind that if you close the account early while the child is still a minor, no credit can ever be reported for the account.

FreeKick Pricing

FreeKick offers a plan for every budget, and all deposits are FDIC-insured up to $250,000. Let’s take a better look at the offered plans:

DepositAnnual Fee
$3,000$0 (Free)

All FreeKick plans include identity protection for two parents and up to six children and credit-building services for up to six children aged 14 to 25. Protect your family members’ identities and kickstart your child’s financial journey—sign up for FreeKick today.