It is hard to imagine there is anybody out there that isn’t aware of the dangers of identity theft, and has not implemented at least minimal ID theft protections against this fast-growing crime in their day-to-day life. But what about those of us with kids; have you considered the safety of your children’s identities? With it now being standard practice to obtain social security numbers for children as infants, there is a new crop of identity thieves targeting an unsuspecting population – our children.
More than 1 million children in the U.S. were ID theft victims last year, resulting in losses of $2.67 billion, according to the 2018 Child Identity Fraud Study by Javelin Strategy & Research. No one is too young to be targeted. Javelin found that two-thirds of the victims were under the age of eight. Another 20 percent were eight to 12 years old. Stealing a child’s identity is a ready-made “blank transcript” for the new owner to create as their own. Because a child’s identity is likely to have no significant previous information on it, they are the ideal template for individuals needing to re-start their lives to avoid arrest, or for illegal immigrants looking to find a way to live and work in the United States. There are many ways that a potential identity thief may use to obtain your child’s name and Social Security number, especially if you do not maintain an awareness of your child’s personal information.
How Does Child Identity Theft Occur?
Here are just some of the ways that thieves can obtain your child’s personal information. All they really need is a name and Social Security number, and they will likely target institutions that do not have a high level of security in place to protect the data. In many cases, the personal information stored at the types of places listed below will be readily accessible to volunteers and multiple employees, and not necessarily kept secure.
- Registration for school or daycare facilities.
- Doctor or dentist office medical records.
- Application for medical insurance.
- Registration for youth sports teams or camps.
- Registration for youth organizations such as Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, etc.
- Thieves lurking on social networking sites may convince a child to provide personal data.
There is no federal law forbidding an organization from asking for a Social Security number, and as is obvious from the list above there are many opportunities for thieves to find potentially ill-guarded information. Once a thief obtains the necessary information, they will usually apply for credit under the victim’s name with a fake address. Although the age of the applicant should show up on a credit background check, it is often overlooked during the screening process and goes undetected. With your child’s identity, the thief may fraudulently open bank, credit card, and utility accounts, falsely obtain a job and even file taxes.
How Can I Prevent Child Identity Theft?
Just like with adult identity theft, you need to be proactive and prevent identity theft rather than planning to simply “fix it after the fact.” If you go to open a bank account for your child’s piggy bank savings and are denied credit, it is a bit too late.
- Run your child’s credit report on a semi-annual basis. It should indicate “no credit found,” if you have not opened accounts in your child’s name.
- Consider adding your children’s credit to your credit monitoring service.
- If a child’s Social Security number is requested by a third party, do not provide this unless absolutely necessary.
Keeping a close, proactive eye on your child’s credit now can save them from a tremendous amount of financial heartache in the future from identity theft and fraud.