Identity theft is an invasive and financially debilitating crime, but what if it was committed by a family member? Not a long-lost uncle or cousin, but an individual's own parents. A recent article in the Washington Post highlights the disturbingly high incidence of identity theft committed by a child's own caregivers, mostly without their knowledge. Parents are able to easily steal their children's identities because they have access to their Social Security number and other necessary information. But more importantly, credit checks do not include the applicant's age, allowing parents to use the information of even their newborn children.
"Some parents will do this because they still want to buy things they can't afford, and the easiest opportunity to do this for someone who is really desperate is to use their own family members," Identity Theft Resource Center founder Linda Foley told the newspaper.
A recent report shows that some parents have resorted to opening up credit card accounts, secure loans or putting utility bills in their children's names in order to stay on top of their finances or, in worst-case scenarios, simply live beyond their means. Regardless of whether parents commit this crime out of need or sheer negligence, the long-term implications could affect the child's credit standing through adulthood, the newspaper said.
Some experts say that the most common reason parents would knowingly jeopardize their children's future finances include financial need and few other alternatives.
"Parents who are compromising their child's identity are generally doing it because of a need, like a single mom whose electric bill is too high and the lights get turned off, so the path of least resistance is putting it under the baby's name," IDTheftSecurity.com chief executive Robert Siciliano told the Post.
According to the Post, most victims do not prosecute their parents, leaving them to pay high amounts of debt, late penalties and fees, all the while spending years trying to repair their credit.
Unfortunately, this trend is not just being seen in children. The elderly are often targets of identity theft and fraud through the hands of family members of financial guardians. Experts estimate that nearly 80 percent of elderly identity theft cases involving family members go unreported each year.