Identity theft remains a growing problem in today’s modern world. Daily we hear of a new security breach at a bank, major retail store such as Best Buy or a health care provider, namely Health Net; and even computer giant Apple was recently in the media over a security breach.
Many consumers have learned the hard way the importance of protecting their identity; but don’t forget about your child’s identity.
Child identity theft is on the rise according to a new report published by Richard Power, a distinguished fellow at Carnegie Mellon University. The data examined by Power revealed children are being targeted by identity thieves. “They make perfect targets because they have no records and don’t discover the crime for years,” he said.
Power examined 40,000 children’s profiles and found more than ten percent had identities that had been compromised in some way. “These were 4,000 kids in there with gun licenses, mortgages, car loans and driver’s licenses. That’s crazy,” Power said.
Because child identity theft can go undetected for years, it makes children’s social security numbers much more desirable. Victims do not immediately suffer the harmful consequences as the identity theft may not be discovered until the child applies for financial aid at college, a car loan, a credit card or job. It may take years to resolve as the errors can be a decade or more old.
One of the victims described in the report was a 16-year Arizona girl with 33 credit accounts linked to her name. Another victim, a 30-year old Arizona woman was denied a mortgage loan when her bank informed her she had a recent foreclosure on record. Her identity had been compromised when she was only 12-years old.
Out of the 4,311 children found to have compromised identity records, 300 were under 5-years old. Approximately 1,800 cases involved utility service accounts. Roughly 500 children’s names were attached to mortgages or foreclosures, and 415 children were licensed drivers.
Power said “…This is an existential threat to our society. The elephant in the room is that obviously we are not properly authenticating people at all.” Power believes children are being targeted because their credit reports are basically empty and their social security numbers may not appear in the credit bureaus’ databases. Identity thieves will typically use the child’s social security but not the child’s name. Since child identity theft takes longer to discover, the thief can use the child’s identity for years.
How does child id theft occur?
Parents may be wondering how identity theft can even occur. Well, think about it. Something as simple as signing your child up for swimming lessons, soccer or even health care records contains social security numbers. Stop giving out your child’s personal information unless it is absolutely necessary. Many organizations that request your child’s social security number really don’t need the number in order to perform services. Do not be intimidated into complying with every request for your child’s personal information.
Don’t be paranoid but definitely be vigilant
First, parents must be aware of the problem in order to become vigilant. Watch out for any telephone solicitations or credit card offers from banks, lenders or credit card companies. It is likely that any child receiving mail or telephone solicitations their name is on a credit marketing list and at least one credit account may have already been established.
Order your yearly free credit reports
Unless you suspect foul play, regular credit monitoring is not recommended by the Federal Trade Commission or the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center. The FTC suggests a credit check every 3 or 4 years should be sufficient for children under 16 years old. However, these two agencies do recommend you obtain a credit report on your child’s 16th birthday.
I, on the other hand, recommend a yearly check of all three credit bureaus. It will not hurt your credit score and it may be a preemptive strike against identity thieves. Annualcreditreport.com can provide a free credit report from the three major credit bureaus once every 12 months. Order one for yourself as well as your child and review for any fraudulent activity.
If you have any reason to suspect your child has been a victim of identity theft, immediately contact the 3 major credit bureaus. The credit bureaus can place a freeze on your child’s credit reports to curtail further activity.
A report with your local police department should be filed and make sure you retain a copy. A police report will help establish your child is a victim of identity theft if necessary at a later time. Also contact the Social Security Administration to report your child’s number is being used fraudulently.
Parents should consider an identity theft service such as Lifelock for the entire family. Identity is so prevalent and instead of the technology helping to decrease the occurrence, it seems to be growing and unfortunately spilling over into the lives of our children. As it stands, discovering identity theft is not that difficult, it is resolving the mess identity theft can cause that takes a toll on families.