It seems that identity thieves have set their sights on some new, more vulnerable victims – children.
A study released earlier this year shows that children’s identities are being stolen at a rate 50 times greater than that of adults.
A child could have his or her social security number stolen by a stranger at birth or shortly thereafter, from common places such as a school, hospital, or doctor’s office. Social Security numbers are issued using a system that is more or less easy to predict, making it possible for thieves to snag brand new numbers, or ones that are just a couple of years old. Most children don’t find out until later in life when applying for jobs or loans.
The Debix Identity Protection Network gave Javelin Strategy & Research data on 500 children who were enrolled in their service for about two months in 2008 to research and analyze for their child identity theft study.
The study found that 5 percent of children, aged 17 and under, had a credit report with their Social Security number although children cannot establish credit until the age of 18.
At 1 in 20 that is one child in every classroom in the United States that has their credit adversely impacted in some way. Statistically, 3.8 million children may already be affected by identity theft.
Other highlights of the study are:
• Among the 5 percent, the average amount of debt was $12,779.
• 12 percent of those with credit problems were aged 5 and under.
• 25 percent of these victims had bills or lines of credit in collections or foreclosure, while 66 percent of these children had fake or wrong names listed under their SSN.
• 42 percent of those children with erroneous credit reports only had credit files at one credit bureau, meaning their fraud could have gone unnoticed without checking all three bureaus.
Experts say the only effective way to thoroughly monitor a child’s identity is to investigate whether or not someone else is using their SSN number in conjunction with their own name.