Kids across the country are back in school, marking the unofficial end of summer for many parents. National Child Identity Theft Awareness Day is observed in early September every year, highlighting classes being back in session and the growing concern for potential identity theft and fraud targeting one of our most valuable resources – the youth. Let’s examine this alarming issue to equip you with the essential information about child identity theft.
Many adults don’t realize that children can fall victim to identity theft. Stealing a child’s identity might seem outlandish on the surface, but their personal information is just as valuable as an adult’s is to a criminal. Younger kids most likely don’t have a bank account full of money or even an ID card. But despite not having any tangible net worth or many physical possessions, they are still a tempting target for thieves because of their personal information that can be used to commit fraud. Complicating the matter further is the fact that children and their parents aren’t always aware of the issue and lack any safeguards or awareness to limit a child’s identity from being stolen in the first place.
Child Identity Theft Defined
The FTC states that “child identity theft happens when someone takes a child’s sensitive personal information and uses it to get services or benefits, or to commit fraud.”
This sensitive personal information includes a child’s Social Security number, date of birth, and address. It might not seem like much, but in the hands of a criminal, this information is all that’s needed to perpetrate many forms of fraud. And even though it’s the personal information of a minor, identity thieves can use it to apply for loans or benefits, take out a credit card, and even sign a rental agreement.
Shocking Statistics and Criminal Tactics
A quick look at some of the numbers surrounding child identity thefts shows just how serious of an issue it has become in recent years.
- Over 1.3 million kids fall victim to identity theft each year, which continues to rise in line with worldwide trends.
- 50% of child identity theft victims are under the age of 6.
- Child Social Security numbers and credit are 51 times more likely to be misused than are those of adults.
- 27% of child identity theft instances are perpetrated by close friends and family.
On top of these statistics are accounts of criminals going to great lengths to gather the personal information of children. There are stories of some scammers walking through graveyards to locate the names of deceased children to use for future fraud, while others have bribed hospital billing staff members to obtain Social Security numbers. A growing number of data breaches targeting schools poses another set of problems. These breaches often result in the compromised personal information of thousands of students. And just like other breaches targeting businesses, once this information is out there, there is no telling when or where it will be used to commit fraud.
While there is no way to prevent child identity theft outright, there are warning signs to watch out for to know if your child’s personal information has been compromised. These are similar to the indications of possible identity theft for anyone, but they should raise red flags quickly if they are directed toward a child. The FTC highlights these warning signs for parents to be aware of:
- You’re denied government benefits (like health care coverage or nutrition assistance) because someone is already using your child’s Social Security number to get those benefits.
- Someone calls you and says your child has an overdue bill, but it’s not an account you opened for the child.
- You get a letter from the IRS that says your child didn’t pay income taxes. This could happen if someone used your child’s Social Security number on tax forms for a new job.
- You’re denied a student loan because your child has bad credit. This could happen if someone used your child’s Social Security number to get a credit card, open a cell phone account, or set up a utility service and has not paid the bills on time or at all.
What You Can Do
You can do several things to better safeguard your child from potential identity theft. Awareness is vital for both you and your child, so it’s essential to educate yourself about the risks and then to pass this knowledge on to any young people in your life. Instilling the dangers of divulging personal information is a good first step to helping your child learn habits that can benefit them now and throughout their lives.
Instruct children never to give out their Social Security number or other personal information online without first asking a parent or adult about it. You should also be careful when providing your child’s Social Security number to schools and always inquire why this information is needed and how it will be protected.
Be cautious with any documents, whether physical or digital, that contain a child’s personal information. Documents such as medical bills or anything else containing their SSN, address, and date of birth, should be treated carefully, so that those don’t fall into the hands of identity thieves. Keep physical documents in a secure location and destroy them before throwing them out.
If you find out that your child’s identity has been stolen, it’s essential to report the situation to any companies using their personal information and to close any accounts that have been opened in the child’s name. You can also contact the credit bureaus to have them remove fraudulent accounts and request a credit freeze so that no additional credit accounts can be opened. Having identity theft restoration services in place can help assist you with this process for your child and for any other family members that fall victim.
LibertyID provides expert, full service, fully managed identity theft restoration to individuals, couples, extended families* and businesses. LibertyID has a 100% success rate in resolving all forms of identity fraud on behalf of our subscribers.
*LibertyID defines an extended family as: you, your spouse/partner, your parents and parents-in-law, and your children under the age of 25.