RISMEDIA, December 21, 2009—You monitor your credit regularly and do everything you believe possible to assure you protect yourself from identity theft, but are you doing the same for your children?
Child identity theft is one of the fastest-growing forms of fraud. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has estimated that approximately 5% of all identity theft cases in America target children. That’s over 500,000 children per year. More interesting is that the Identity Theft Resource Center estimates that approximately 54% of these child I.D. theft cases target children under the age of six.
So How Does Child Identity Theft Happen?
Children are an appealing target because their credit is typically a clean slate. Identity thieves simply get access to your child’s name and Social Security number through a variety of means (see sidebar). They then add a phony address and other needed information before they apply for new credit. Once credit is granted, they cultivate the accounts just long enough to establish higher limits. They often use as much of the credit as possible to make purchases and then disappear. The theft goes unnoticed, in most cases, until the youth is ready to apply for credit as a young adult. They then apply for their first credit card, only to find out that they have a 12-year history of bad credit and wonder, “What happened!” Not only is the youth’s credit affected, but it could impact their future employability until the issues are fixed.
How Do Identity Thieves Get My Child’s Information? What Are the ‘Red Flags’?
For an identity thief, the most common means of obtaining your children’s information are sources that have limited security in place. These include the following examples:
-Medical, dental and hospital records
-Joining youth organizations like Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts
-Information stored by a non-secure entity and then accessed by a hacker or malicious software
-Information accessible to volunteers
-Registering for daycare, schools and sports teams
-A thief posing on a social Web network that “cons” a child out of their real name and Social Security number
Some key “red flags” to look for:
-You begin to receive suspicious mail or pre-approved credit cards and other financial offers for your children.
-You are attempting to open a financial account or other credit for your child and they are denied for credit reasons.
How Do I Protect My Child’s Information?
Time is of the essence, so act fast. Parents should take control now and consider the following tips:
1. Ask detailed questions regarding why an individual or entity is requesting your child’s Social Security number.