Identity Thieves Target Children, Fastest Growing Victims of Identity Theft and #1 Crime Reported to FTC
I was shocked to discover that children comprise the fastest growing segment of identity theft victims in the U.S. today. Identity theft is a serious crime and is ranked #1 as the top consumer complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for the 11th year in a row in 2010. Identity theft is the single fastest-growing crime in the nation—a $50-billion- a-year industry that continues to expand its reach.
Why?, I wondered, would identity thieves want to steal your child’s identity when children are the ones with zero credit history, no income, and no financial assets to ‘steal’ ? Read on…
What is Child Identity Theft?
Child identity theft is the act of using a child’s personal information—such as the child’s name, date of birth (DOB) and social security number (SSN)— to take over the identity of that child, either online or offline, to commit fraud, theft or crime in that child’s name.
Why are Children the ‘Ideal Target’ for Identity Thieves?
Child identity theft appeals to identity thieves because the child or the child’s parents are unlikely to discover any suspicious activity. Identity thieves target young victims for two primary reasons:
1. Children are literally born with a ‘clean slate’ with respect to their identity and their credit, representing easy and naive targets for fraudsters, illegal workers, and identity thieves. Few children have credit cards and bank accounts in their name, which makes it easier for thieves to create new accounts such as credit cards and bank accounts.
2. Most parents don’t check their child’s credit record for fraud, so child identity theft can go undetected for years. Unless we as parents take action to protect our child’s identity from theft, they may be surprised to find their identity has been stolen for years, even decades, by the time the child applies for their first credit card, loan, or job.
10 Places Where Your Child’s Identity Can Get Stolen:
Most children are now issued social security numbers early in life, often at birth. Other personal information identity thieves routinely use are birth records or preapproved credit card offers, which are sometimes mistakenly sent to minors and then discarded by parents as 'trash'. There are a number of places children’s personal information, including social security numbers, may be vulnerable, including:
1. Medical records or patient billing records through the hospital where your child was born. Hospital personnel often file your child’s birth certificate and social security number for you, make sure the process goes smoothly and notify the social security administration immediately if your child’s card does not arrive in a timely fashion
2. Public school records and day care centers
3. Little league sports associations or clubs that ask for your child's SSN
4. Online social networks like Facebook where thieves pose as your child’s ‘friend’ and coax information from them like passwords and their personal information, which can compromise their identity
5. Your child’s Immunization records
6. The County Recorder’s office where your child’s birth certificate is physically copied and filed. These certificates have your child’s and entire family’s address, SSN, DOB, telephone number and other personal information about you.
7. The Social Security Administration and government websites were social security numbers are often compromised or left in plain view
8. Your pediatrician’s office, or any medical office or hospital where your child has received medical treatment, since social security number and date of birth are often used to verify your child’s identity
9. Your local library, where your child obtains a library cards
10. By a parent, family member, household employee or friend who has access to your child’s social security number, date of birth and other details, also known as 'friendly frauds'
As parents, it’s our primary job to protect our children, which is why it makes me so mad to hear that some deadbeat parents have committed identity theft against their own child as reported by CNN’s Money.
Child Identity Theft Hurts Your Child
Having an identity stolen before a child even has a chance to go to college, land their first job, or buy their first can can have damaging effects on their financial future and job prospects. Even though the damage can be undone eventually, it costs families lots of time and money and potential legal fees to undo the identity theft damage to children, which includes:
• Difficulty getting accepted into college
• Difficulty opening a savings account
• Difficulty applying for a driver’s license
• Inability to secure a job
• Getting collection notices in the child’s name
• Lost and damaged credit
• Having arrest warrants in your child’s name
Preventing Child Identity Theft - What Parents Can Do
If your child is the victim of identity theft, act immediately to minimize damage:
1. Contact law enforcement immediately to file a police report.
2. Work with a reputable company to help you remove fraudulent activity from your child’s account, as paperwork can be complicated and take hours to complete and file.
3. Monitor your child’s credit report from each of the credit bureaus. Make sure to notify the credit bureau that the report is associated with a minor who does not have a credit history. When contacting one of the three major credit bureaus, make sure you supply your child’s name, social security number and other requested information. If the phone system gives you a response of “no file found” or “information does not match,” this is good news. You should follow up by writing to the credit bureaus and reporting the suspected identity theft. Make sure to ask them to confirm in writing that they have no file on your child.
The addresses for the credit reporting agencies are listed below:
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, Georgia 30374
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, Texas 75013
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
SafetyWeb is Launching myID.com - Identity Theft Alerts and Privacy Protection
In response to parents' continued concerns over their child's privacy and the privacy of the entire family, we have been working on a new product to help individuals protect their privacy and identity online. Please visit myID.com to sign up for our beta program, and we'll let you know as soon as it's available. myID can help protect you and your child from identity fraud, help you manage your online privacy, and send you real-time alerts when possible identity theft is detected using your or your child's information.
Denise Terry is SafetyWeb's Chief Safety Mom and the mother of twins. Denise is responsible for corporate communications, social media, public relations and marketing SafetyWeb products. Follow @SafetyWeb and @MyIDdotcom on Twitter for the latest news on SafetyWeb and myID.com.
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