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Imagine this: you’re preparing for your high school graduation, and you’ve been accepted at “the” university. Everything’s in place, except for financing. So you begin to apply for student loans, excited at the prospects before you.
But your loan application is rejected. Again and again. Why? Because according to your credit report, you haven’t made a mortgage payment in four months, and you’re behind on other bills as well.
The thing is – you haven’t even finished high school, you’ve never lived anywhere but with your parents, and those other bills? Well, you’re clueless about them also.
You’ve just become the victim of identity theft.
Child identity theft is all too common, and it’s often the type of theft crooks choose because it’s often years before the theft is discovered. A child’s credit is pristine, and if a thief can get his hands on a child’s information, he can rack up debt long before the theft is uncovered. Which means when that child is ready to apply for his first car loan, he’ll likely be rejected.
If you’ve been victimized by an identity thief, there are steps you should take to get things back on track. First, report the crime to the police. Retain a copy of the police report for your files. Make sure you report the crime, even if it is a family member – you’ll never clear your name until you do.
You should also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the office of the attorney general in your state. This will help to make your case stronger and will garner you the help you need.
Next, you should contact the three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You’ll want to obtain a copy from each, which you can get for free. Review each one, taking note of each creditor listed.
Send each creditor a letter with a copy of your birth certificate, strongly communicating that you were not old enough to open the account or take out the loan listed on your credit report. Demand that all accounts, applications for credit and collection notices be erased from your credit report. You can do so via letter or by speaking on the phone to the fraud specialist employed by the creditor. If you cannot speak to a fraud specialist, file a formal fraud dispute claim with each of the credit bureaus.
Get your parents’ help and with them, contact an attorney about changing your Social Security number. This can help protect your future credit history.
Don’t give up if you have a bit of a struggle setting things right. Remember that these things take time, and it’s worth the struggle. You’ll be glad you and your parents were able to set things right once you start college.