Identity Theft and Its Youngest Victims
The FTC estimates that 9 million people are victims of stolen identities – each year. And now it seems that many criminals are setting their sights on a specific market – children. A new study estimates that 1 in 10 children will be victims of identity theft. Why children?
Thieves use personal information to open accounts, secure loans, and finance their criminal behavior. When the information comes from an adult, credit checks and accounts legally held by the victim often lead to discovery of the crime. When the information comes from a child, there is a higher likelihood that the crime will go undiscovered for years. Often it isn’t until children are grown and ready to apply for credit cards or loans of their own that these crimes are uncovered. Really, how often do you pull your child’s credit report? And even if you do – unless searching by Social Security number instead of name, the violation might go on without being detected.
Now you’ve got one more thing to worry about, as if raising kids wasn’t stressful enough. So what can you do to protect your children? Here are some tips suggested:
Make sure you have antivirus software installed on your home computer.
Tell your children never to give out their Social Security number without your permission.
Check your children's credit periodically, even when they are under age.
But also remember that no matter how many precautions you are taking at home, your information – and your child’s information – is out there. “Criminals can hack home computers in search of tax forms with a child's Social Security number. They also can target hospitals, child-welfare agencies and even schools.” Awareness is your best weapon against this crime.
If during your checks you discover identity theft, you can visit the FTC website for steps to take.