Did you know a child’s identity is twice as likely to be compromised as an adult’s? More than 1 million children under the age of 18 in the U.S. were identity theft victims in a single year, according to the most recent study on Child Identity Fraud by Javelin Strategy & Research. Two-thirds of those young victims are under the age of eight. Cyber thieves seek out the untapped identities of children to open credit cards, commit tax fraud, qualify for government benefits, or apply for work or a place to live – and by doing so, this compromise of personal information can go undetected for years, at least until your child has a need to open a credit card account or apply for a loan.
Now you may be thinking, how can someone open a new credit card in my child’s name when they have no established credit? Synthetic identity theft can occur when a criminal creates a new identity using a fake name, address, and other Personally Identifiable Information (PII) paired with an innocent child’s real Social Security number. And, while many of these fraudsters hide behind the veil of the Dark Web, the perpetrator is often those you’d least expect.
“Familiar fraud” is on the rise, as Javelin Strategy & Research’s Child Identity Fraud Report estimates 6 in 10 child victims personally know the perpetrator. This may include a family friend, extended or a close relative, or even a parent.
Going Once, Going Twice: Your Child’s Financial Future
Few places require your child’s Social Security number, but their school, health insurance provider, and doctor’s office all have forms where it is asked for regularly. With healthcare data breaches on the rise, along with parent social oversharing, smart toys, and mobile applications gathering their information, kid’s identities are increasingly at risk. “Child fullz”, the name fraudsters use to refer to a child’s complete stolen information package, can be easily found for sale on the Dark Web. These “fullz” include names, dates of birth, addresses, and Social Security numbers. Each packaged identity starts at $10 each or can be purchased in bulk for even less.
Warning Signs Your Child is a Victim
If you have a hunch your child’s identity is in the wrong hands, it may already be too late. Beware of the following red flags:
- You receive a notice from the IRS regarding a tax return filed under your child’s name
- You are denied government benefits because your child’s Social Security number is attached to someone else’s benefit claim
- Your child receives credit card and loan offers in the mail
- Collection calls and notices start targeting your child
Lasting Damage of Synthetic ID Fraud
Aside from the emotional devastation triggered by realizing your child is a victim of identity theft, the serious financial damage can take years to repair. By the time they are 18, a fraudster could have raked up thousands of dollars in debt in their name. In 2017, child identity fraud resulted in over $540 million in out-of-pocket expenses to families and $2.6 billion in total losses in the U.S.
Tips to Protect Your Children’s Identity
- Lock down your family’s personal information. Take control and don’t feel pressured to provide sensitive information when completing certain forms. Additionally, ask how the information provided about your child is used and secured. Store important documents in a safe place and shred any that are outdated and unnecessary.
- Check for credit. The FTC recommends checking to see if your child has a credit report as they reach 16, giving you time to resolve any found issues before they apply for credit cards and loans, a job, or an apartment at age 18.
- Freeze their credit. The law allows parents to freeze their children’s credit for free, preventing a fraudster from opening new lines of credit in their name. Each credit bureau has a process for legal guardians to follow, so check for details.
- Safeguard your family with identity theft protection. Be a step ahead of cybercriminals and have an extra set of eyes monitoring your family’s personal information.
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of EZShield Inc. alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or entity, including specifically any person or entity affiliated with the distribution or display of this content.