We mean an identity crisis such as their identity being stolen and used for fraudulent purposes. Data just released by Carnegie Mellon’s CyLab suggests identity theft among children may be more prevalent than previously thought.
Why child ID’s?
Unused Social Security numbers are valuable as thieves can pair them with any name and birth date. Interestingly, the Social Security Administration does not share names and DOB with creditors and other authorizing agents, so they are left to guess if the person claiming the SSN is the rightful owner.
Their identities are particularly valuable for illegal immigrants since a child’s identity is a blank slate and the probability of discovery is low, as the child will not be using it for a long period of time. Also, parents typically don’t monitor their children’s identities.
Here are a couple of example from the report:
A 17-year-old Arizona girl has over $725,000 in debt. Her Social Security number was linked to eight different suspects living in border states. The suspects opened 42 open accounts including mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, and bills in collections including medical, credit cards, and utilities
From a 17 year old in Ohio – 12 people living in border states had used his Social Security number to obtain credit, utilities and employment. The thieves racked up over $58,000 in bad debt.
A Kentucky boy, 14, had a credit history going back more than 10 years. Several credit cards and a foreclosed mortgage were already in his credit history, all from a suspect living in California. The thief established good credit for the first 10 years and was able to finance a $605,000 home through first and second mortgages. Then, the home loans went into default and the bank foreclosed. Additionally, a credit account with over $2,000 in unpaid charges went into collections.
And finally, not all problems are caused by outright fraud.
A Texas girl applied for an internship during college and after accepting an offer, a background check revealed someone was using her Social Security number for employment – and had been for many years – accidentally transposing some of the numbers. The girl was classified “unemployable” because she did not “own” her SSN and had to spend months resolving the issue with credit bureaus, the Social Security Administration, and her employer.
What to do about it?
1) Sign-up for a credit monitoring service for your children.
2) Watch for mail in your child’s name. If you begin receiving pre-approved credit cards or other unsolicited financial offers in your child’s name, it is an indicator that your child may have an open credit file.
3) Teach your child about identity theft and online safety. Talk to your child about the dangers of sharing personal data online. Children surfing the web are particularly vulnerable to exposing personal information in chat rooms or on social networking sites.
4) Make sure children understand the importance of keeping this data private.
5) Keep your child’s sensitive documents safe. Gauge your child’s level of responsibility before you share banking and credit information, even accounts in their name. Most children will need their Social Security card when they go off to college, but make sure they know to keep their card in a safe place rather than carry it around in a wallet or purse.
Child identity theft can be devastating to both adults and children. For parents, it means time, money, and effort spent to clear the child’s name. For children, if it’s not discovered in time, it could mean the loss of educational and job opportunities, and starting off adulthood at a serious disadvantage, someone else’s bad credit in your name.