You’ve taken steps to make sure that you’re not a victim of identity theft, but what about your kids?
A recently-released report from Carnegie Mellon’s CyLab suggests that identity thieves are targeting children’s Social Security numbers. Using data supplied by an identity monitoring company, author Richard Power determined found 4,311 children had someone else using their Social Security numbers. The youngest victim was five months old; 303 victims were under the age of five.
Children’s Social Security numbers are potentially more valuable to an identity thief because parents typically don’t monitor them. One 14-year-old boy from Kentucky mentioned in the report had a credit history dating back more than ten years. A thief used the boy’s identity to obtain a mortgage on a $605,000 house in California, which went into foreclosure.
Not every incident documented in the report was malicious. A college-age girl from Texas learned that someone else had been using her Social Security number for years when she applied for an internship. A background check classified her as “unemployable” because she did not “own” her Social Security number. Someone had accidentally transposed some of the digits, causing a mixup that took months to unravel and repair.
According to Power’s report, there is currently no process for creditors or employers to check to see what name and birth date is attached to a particular Social Security number. A thief can attach any name and birth date he or she wants to a number with a clean history.
Power recommends that parents teach their children about identity theft and the dangers of sharing their personal information online. He warns parents that if children begin to receive pre-approved credit card offers or other unsolicited financial offers, it’s a sign that they may have an open credit file.
The Identity Theft Resource Center®, a national non-profit organization dedicated to the understanding and prevention of identity theft, also recommends that parents avoid giving out their child’s Social Security numbers unless it is absolutely necessary.
Neither the Federal Trade Commission nor the Identity Theft Resource Center advise parents to check their children’s credit reports on a regular basis. That could cause the credit bureaus to create reports prematurely, putting the children’s identities at greater risk. If there is reason to believe your child’s identity has been stolen, the Identity Theft Resource Center explains how to order his or her credit report.
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