It may be difficult to imagine any person, especially a parent, stealing the identity of a child. But as this type of crime becomes more prevalent, advocates are fighting back.
Child identity theft can go unnoticed for years, allowing parents, relatives or strangers to take out loans, open accounts or gain employment under the name of their victim. Credit checks that are conducted when a person opens a new account do not check the applicant's age, making it easier to get away with the crime. But consumer advocates are working on a way to change this practice to reduce the risk of child identity theft.
According to technology website InformationWeek, the Identity Theft Resource Center contacted the Social Security Administration and the Department of Justice to propose the creation of a new database that would determine whether a Social Security card being used belongs to a minor. The program, titled Minor 17-10 Database, would store the name, Social Security number and birth date of every minor in the U.S. up to age 17 and 10 months. Because minors are not permitted to apply for credit, the database would result in an automatic denial of a loan or credit card for criminals who tried to use a minor's SSN.
"The credit issuers currently are blind, they have no way of knowing which year the social security number was issued, but even that wouldn't help, because it could have just been issued to a 40-year-old person who just got citizenship," ITRC co-executive director Linda Foley told InformationWeek.
In most cases, young adults who are the victim of identity theft do not discover the crime until they apply for student loans, a job or their first credit card. By this time, their credit score is ruined and they spend years trying to improve their standing. Parents can take measures to reduce the risk of their children's information falling into the wrong hands.
For example, parents can pull a copy of their child's credit report to make sure that there are no accounts or loans under their name. Children who play sports or are involved in other community activities may also be required to provide their SSN or birth certificate. Parents should make a copy of these documents and also ask officials how this sensitive information will be protected.