Child Identity Theft

Do you have a child that has been victimized by child identity theft? Millions of adults each year find themselves victimized by identity theft yet they rarely think to protect their children. An alarming and consistent fact among surveys, done over the past three years, shows that ten percent of all children in the U.S. have been victimized by identity theft. This percentage means that approximately 500,000 children each year are targeted successfully by identity thieves.

     Most people understand identity theft, but child identity theft is a lesser known crime. Child identity theft is a crime where the criminal specifically targets an individual because of their young age for specific personal information. AllClear ID released a 2012 survey which stated that children are now targeted thirty-five times more often than are adults. This is confirmed by a December 2012 Javelin Strategy and Research report which stated that one in every forty households in the U.S. has at least one child that has been victimized by identity theft.

Education is the key to prevention. Parents and guardians of foster care children need to educate themselves on the fact that a child’s information is of value regardless of their age. Thieves are now targeting children at birth. The reason is that they have learned that the earlier they obtain a child’s personal identifying information, such as their name and Social Security number, the longer they will have to use the data for credit, employment, medical, or criminal purposes.

    The credit issuing industry has no “date of birth” verification system. Credit agencies view each application submitted and make decisions on issuing credit based on their established company policies. Thieves have learned that a credit issuer looks at a first time applicant as having “good” credit. Children are first time applicants when their information is submitted by thieves for credit.

    Quite often thieves use synthetic identity theft. Synthetic identity theft is the use of a child’s name with a fictitious Social Security number, or a child’s Social Security number submitted with a fake name or the name of someone else. Thieves also use what is called identity theft manipulation. Identity theft manipulation occurs when a thief changes a portion of your child’s identity and submits for credit. This may be in the form of changing the last two numbers of the Social Security number or by changing the year of your child’s birth.

    There are several preventative steps parents can take. I encourage parents and guardians to obtain annual credit reports for all family members including their children. Begin this process by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com for adults. To obtain a child’s report, visit any one of the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. Carefully follow the agency’s current procedures for obtaining a child’s report. I also recommend requesting a “manual” search of your child’s social security number by the credit agency you submit to. This allows for discovery of an abuse when a Social Security number was used with another person’s information.

Other measures you can take to protect your child include shredding all documents that leave your residence via the trash, carefully screening the need for divulging your child’s Social Security number on forms, not carrying your child’s Social Security card in your purse or wallet, and mailing critical documents in locked mail boxes.

If you find that your child has been victimized, report the crime to both your local police and the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov).

For more information on child identity theft, visit:www.chilDtheft.org

and www.facebook.com/ChilDtheft