Child identity theft has become the fastest growing segment of identity theft cases, with some estimates putting the annual number of incidents at 500,000, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC projects children account for five percent of all identity theft victims.
The statistics are high and growing for two primary reasons:
1. Children represent a clean slate in terms of credit, with no credit problems impeding access to resources.
2. Criminals capitalize on the fact that the crime can go unnoticed for several years, as most parents do not think to perform a credit check on their children’s name.
It’s worthwhile to note, children should not have a credit report unless they’ve been victimized by identity theft or indeed have used a credit card, for example.
This sort of fraud has lasting effects on the victim. Years of abused credit can limit access to continued education. Criminals carelessly churn and burn through others’ identities, destroying their credit score in the process. What’s worse is learning that the crime was committed by a family member, which makes it harder, emotionally, to prosecute.
Be cautious anytime you are requested to provide personal information (Social Security number, birth certificate, etc.) for your children. Many organizations, such as schools or extracurricular activities, will request sensitive information for your child’s participation. However, it’s a good idea to confirm with them what is required and what is optional. It may also be beneficial to ask what the information will be used for exactly and how it will be stored. At home, keep these records in a locked cabinet or safety deposit box.
Lastly, act quickly if you suspect your child is an identity theft victim. Contact the credit bureaus to see if your child has a credit record on file. There should be no information on your child’s report, so if you find accounts or loans listed, contact law enforcement and alert them of the crime.