The Growing Child Identity Theft Problem
Identity theft cases are becoming more and more common and especially among our children. Identity theft happens when online criminals gain access to someone’s personal information and steal it for their financial gain.
These criminals can use your social security card to open new accounts or hack into your bank accounts and access all your financial assets. It’s not a new problem. Still, with all of our personal information being stored electronically, it is becoming more prevalent, and it can be a severe problem for the victim.
This problem is becoming much more common among our minor children than ever before. In 2017, more than 1 million children had their identities stolen. 66% of these victims were under the age of 8.
Even more interesting is that 60% of child victims know the identity thief. A parent or a step-parent commit 22% of these frauds. Other relatives account for 10% of the frauds, and the rest is done by “family friends”.
Many times, no one is aware of the identity theft until the child is old enough for a driver’s license or credit card. Sometimes this is a decade away, and a lot of damage can be done in that amount of time.
What is Child Identity Theft?
There are two categories of people committing child identity theft – people who know the child and strangers. In desperate financial times, parents or other familiar people turn to illegal activities by mainly using there child’s name, social security number, and sometimes changing the birth date to create new accounts to turn on utilities or purchase necessary items or pay their bills!
Sadly, the child’s credit is ruined before they even become a legal adult. To clean up the records, the child must file a police report, but children may be unwilling to report their parents or relatives. This means that the rate of this type of identity theft may be even higher than the statistics report.
As for the other 40% of total strangers that commit identity theft against young children, they are disreputable people that gather the children person information from a variety of sources, taxes, doctor’s offices, schools, etc. Even custom forms for children traveling abroad end up in the wrong hands.
Child identity theft is a crime that specifically targets the child’s Social Security number, date of birth, and name. You could steal a child’s information at birth and abuse it for 18 years before anyone even realizes the child has been victimized.
As far as the bank or credit bureau is concerned, the false identity is real because thieves use a child’s clean slate to establish a new credit history, and no one is the wiser. Whereas, in adult identity theft, you are notified when someone steals your current and active identity.
One of the first things you should do is get a credit report for yourself and your child. If your child is victimized, your information may have been stolen as well. If your child has no credit history, the chances are that everything s alright. Anyone under 18 that has a credit history has probably been victimized.
If this is the case, you need to work with the credit agencies to undo the damage that has been created. This can be a long process. Make sure that they are searching the database for the SSN instead of the child’s name. This way, you can catch the criminal if he is issuing the SSN to create a synthetic ID.
Warning signs that your child has been the victim of identity theft include the following that you or your child might experience:
- Being turned down for government benefits because the benefits are being paid to another account using your child’s Social Security number.
- You receive a notice from the IRS saying the child didn’t pay income taxes, or that the child’s SSN was used on another tax return.
- You receive collection calls for bills or services you didn’t receive.
Steps to Take to Repair the Damage of Child Identity Theft
- Contact all credit reporting agencies.
- Update your files. Keep copies of all calls or sent letters.
- Place a fraud alert on your child’s credit report.
- File a fraud report with the FTC and also a local police report.
- Request a credit freeze.
- Order the child’s credit report.
- Contact all businesses where the information was misused.
Steps to Take to Prevent Child Identity Theft
- Find a safe location for all paper and electronic records with your child’s personal information.
- Don’t share your child’s SSN with anyone that you don’t know and trust. If necessary, only use the last four digits of the SSN.
- Shred all documents with personal information before throwing away. Be very careful about what trash you use.
- Be aware of the events that happen around you. If you lose a wallet or paperwork that contains your child’s SSN, or there is a break-in at your home, school, or doctor’s office. All of those events can be a security breach, and all actions listed above should be taken.
- Know your rights and laws safeguarding personal information. For example, the FERPA, enforced by the US Department of Education that protects the privacy of student records.
Child identity theft is a grave matter that can have long-lasting complicated repercussions. If you feel you or your child’s information may have compromised or you are a victim of this dangerous crime, contact Social Catfish to assist you. Again, be careful and pay attention to your actions as it relates to protecting your child’s personal and private information.