While it seems like summer just began, back-to-school season is here! Parents need to work with their children to help minimize their risk of becoming a victim of child identity theft.
As we head back to school, parents will be filling out forms with personal information, sending their kids off with information in their school bags, etc. Children make a tempting target for identity thieves, as theft of a child’s identity may go undetected for years – with possibly serious consequences, including damaged credit.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, more than 19,000 cases of child identity theft were reported in 2011, up from about 6,000 in 2003.
Child ID Theft Statistics
The 2012 Child Identity Theft Fraud Report released by the Identity Theft Assistance Center identified the following child ID theft statistics:
- 334 Days: Average time to detect a case of child identity theft
- 56 Percent: The percentage of child identity theft cases involving a stolen Social Security number
- 27 Percent: The percentage of reported child identity theft cases that were perpetrated by a family member or friend
- 1 in 40: Number of households with children under 18 had experienced a case of child ID theft
“In many cases the key elements required to open a credit account is a name and Social Security number,” said Julie Springer, TransUnion’s vice president responsible for consumer education for TransUnion, one of the three national credit reporting companies. Since a child’s Social Security number represents a ‘clean slate’ and has the potential to go undetected for years, it represents an appealing target to most identity theft thieves.”
“Identity theft can affect your child’s future credit and employment prospects if the perpetrator–who in many cases is a friend of the family or even a relative–obtains credit accounts using the child’s Social Security number,” Springer continues. “The good news is there are steps parents can take to help minimize their child’s risk of becoming a victim and signs to watch out for that could signal their child’s identity has possibly been compromised or stolen.”
Protecting Your Child’s Identity
To help safeguard your child’s identity, TransUnion recommends the following to parents:
- Be mindful of the personal information that your child is carrying. Make sure his or her information is kept in a safe spot and not just tossed in the bottom of a school bag. Help your child memorize personal information.
- Remind your children that they should never give out their personal information, especially to a stranger, and it should only be given to a teacher or other person they trust and know.
- Consider hand-delivering directly to the school any forms with personal information or medical records instead of sending them with your child.
What to Look For
Possible warning signs of child identity theft include:
- The child begins to receive suspicious mail, like pre-approved credit cards and other financial offers normally sent to adults, in their name.
- The parent tries to open a financial account for the child, but finds one already exists or learns the application is denied because of a poor credit history. A credit report already exists in the child’s name. If the child has an existing credit report, he or she may have been targeted already, since typically, an application for credit, a credit account, or a public record starts the compilation of a consumer credit file.
In the event that identity thieves may have targeted your child, TransUnion can help. After completing our secure Child Identity Theft Inquiry Form, TransUnion can investigate the existence of a potential credit file in your child’s name using the information provided. After TransUnion’s search is complete, they will respond using the email address provided. If TransUnion locates a file in the child’s name, they will ask the parents for additional information in order to proceed with steps to protect the child from any impact associated with this fraudulent activity.