Children are the newest victims of identity theft/fraud and most of the time they don’t even know they have been preyed upon. Children make a very tempting target for identity thieves because theft of a child’s identity may go undetected for years. The results of a study done by Carnegie Mellon University stated that children are 51 items more likely to be a victim of identity theft than adults. The latest statistics show that about 1.3 million kids are victims of identity theft annually and 50% are younger than 6 years old.
You’re probably asking yourself, why would thieves want to steal the identity of a child? Children don’t have credit cards or big bank accounts but what they do have is social security numbers. Children are being targeted more and more because their information is more difficult to detect, so it’s more lucrative for the thieves. A thief can steal a child’s social security number at birth and abuse that information for up to 18 years until that child applies for a driver’s license or credit card and is made aware of the damage to their credit that has taken place. Thieves can obtain credit cards and file tax returns using the name and social security number of the child.
Some ways to try to guard your child from identity theft are as follows:
- Don’t give out their social security number, if you must, find out who will have access to it and what safeguards are in place.
- Protect their date of birth and mother’s maiden name.
- Since approximately 30% of child identity theft is committed by the child’s own family members, parents should make sure that any information containing the child’s social security number is locked away out of sight of other family members.
- Be suspicious if you see an influx of credit card and loan offers in your child’s name.
- Check your child’s credit report.
- Educate your child on the importance of keeping their social security number secret and make sure they know never to share their full name, address or phone number on any social networking site.