Child Identity Theft

Updated: Feb 25, 2019

We tell them not to talk to strangers to protect them. We tell them to wear helmets when they ride their bikes. We constantly want to protect them from every little thing that could hurt them, but we do not tend to think about guarding them against identity theft. We tend to think of identity theft as a uniquely adult problem, but is that the case? In 2017, the identities of over one million children were stolen, and over sixty percent of those children were seven years old or younger. About the same percentage had their identity stolen by someone they knew, whether a family member or a family friend. What makes child identity theft such an attractive crime? Your assumption that the problem is strictly adult.

Clearly, identity theft is not strictly an adult problem, and the effects of childhood identity theft gone unaddressed can be horrendous. Ask the man who found out that the identity of his sixteen year old daughter had been stolen. She was reaching the age when she should be finding a job and buying a car and preparing for college, and her abilities to do all of those things became hampered. We do not tend to think to protect the identities of our children, but we should.

Why would anyone steal a child’s identity? A child’s identity provides a thief with a type of “blank slate” so that he can open multiple lines of credit before anyone notices. Child identity theft can go unnoticed for about sixteen to eighteen years, and the havoc that the thief can wreck on the identity can impact the child for years to come. Government benefits fraud is another area where identity theft is big. Thieves steal the identity and apply for government benefits, making them unavailable to the actual owner of that identity when they are needed.

To truly understand the thief, you must understand their mode of operation. There are several slightly frightening ways that an identity thief can steal an identity. One way is direct identity theft. The thief scours school records or camp records or even medical billing offices for social security numbers, names, dates of birth, etc. and builds an identity around that data. Then, armed with his new identity, he can open lines of credit, apply for government benefits, get medical assisstance, all at the expense of your child. Another method is known as synthetic identity theft, in which a thief will create an entirely new identity using some real and some manufactured data. The third and possibly scariest way that child identity thieves work is by randomizing social security numbers. Thieves will simply create a random social security number that may or may not already be backed by an existing person. This means that at some point, some random newborn will come home from the hospital with this social security number owing back taxes and thousands of dollars in credit card bills. The youngest case of identity theft reported currently is five months.

How do we protect our children from such a violation? The first step is being aware of the possibility. Congratulations, Step one complete. In all seriousness, though, there are some steps you can take to insure that your child has a clean slate to work with when they are old enough to apply for a job or a school loan or purchase a car.

Be careful with personal data. Everyone asks for a child’s social security number- the doctors, the school, the camps, the music teacher, the dance lessons and soccer associations, but everyone does not necessarily need that information. Protect your child’s social security number like it is your own. Ask the hard questions like how the asking institution will protect the data, what it is needed for, and if it is truly needed at all. On top of that, teaching your kids not to give out their own information is something that will only help them in life.

Keep sensitive data in lockdown. Birth certificates, social security cards, passports, hospital records all contain sensitive personal data that can be used to steal your child’s identity. Do not flaunt it around or post it on social media. Keep it safe-preferably in a safe.

You can freeze your child’s credit and check their credit. Credit card fraud is a frequent offense in child identity theft. Be ahead of the game and seal your child’s credit until they are old enough to use it for themselves. Hold on to the freeze lift pin that you put in place and share it with one other person you trust with your child’s life, just in case something happens to you. Check their credit yearly. Experian, Equifax, and Transunion all offer a free credit report once a year, so take advantage of it.

Be aware of the warning signs. (These are from the FTC). 1) You are turned down for government benefits because someone is already collecting them using the same social security number. 2) You get a notice from the IRS that your child did not pay income taxes or that the same social security number was used on another tax return. 3) You get collection statements or bills for products or services you did not receive. All of these should be red flags that someone’s identity has been stolen.

How do you fix a stolen identity? In an ideal world, you would not have to. But in the world we live in, it is an unfortunate reality that our identities are actually something we have to protect. Fortunately, it is possible to restore a stolen identity, and it is possible that you do not have to take time off of work to do it. That is what IDShield is for. With a guarantee that they will spend up to five million dollars to restore your identity to a pre-theft condition (which they have never had to do yet), IDShield works for you to restore your identity instead of you having to do the work yourself, all at less than $20 a month. In addition to that, they monitor the internet and dark web chatrooms where identities are bought and sold to catch the theft before it happens. This peace of mind is a truly proactive solution you hope to never need.

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