My child is who?
Unfortunately, it is time for another warning about children and identity theft.
Javelin Research recently published the results of a survey of 5,000 people that was conducted online during August and September of last year. Not surprisingly, the numbers show that children are victims of identity theft, too. And their number is increasing.
The survey showed that more than a million children were victims, resulting in costs of more than $540 million to their families. Economic losses associated with the crime were estimated to be $2.6 billion with most of that amount coming from new account and non-credit card fraud.
Among the contributing factors were data breaches that unfortunately released information about both adults and children.
According to information from the Identity Theft Resource Center, 2017 was a banner year for data breaches with an increase of more than 40 percent over 2016 and 1,579 beaches reported. Of these, minors were notified of being victims of a breach at more than double the rate of adults (39 percent and 19 percent of those notified of breaches, respectively.)
Even more surprising is that the Javelin survey showed that two thirds of the children in the survey had become identity theft victims when they were under the age of 7.
The appeal of a child’s information is irresistible for an identity thief. Because children have no credit history, the thief can use the child’s pristine record to open new accounts for long periods of time. In some cases, the child doesn’t discover the theft until he or she reaches adulthood and applies for credit.
Not only is the young adult faced with sorting out years of misuse of their credit, but often they are faced with learning that someone close to them has stolen their identity. More often than not those who establish credit using a child’s information is someone who knows that child.
So what can concerned parents do?
- Place a security freeze on your child’s credit report by requesting one from each of the three credit bureaus.
- Make sure that any documents that include the child’s information (date of birth and social security number) are securely stored away from prying eyes.
- If your employer has records of your child’s information for health insurance or other benefits, make sure that these are kept in a secure place. And if your child has now aged out of the employer’s coverage, make sure that your child’s information is deleted and removed.
- Keep an eye on materials you receive in the mail. If you receive notices addressed to your child, investigate to make sure that these are not from new accounts that have been opened or other misuse of your child’s information.
Jane Carpenter is a member of the FBI InfraGard organization and author of identity theft reference materials used by law enforcement in the U.S.