A jury summons or a debt collector call might not be all that remarkable – unless it’s for your child. If that happens, it’s a sign they might be a victim of identity theft.
In 2017, over 1 million children (1.48 percent of minors) were victims of fraud or identity theft according to Javelin Strategy & Research. This resulted in $2.6 billion of total losses, hitting families with over $540 million in out-of-pocket costs.
Identity theft is commonly thought to be an “adult problem,” said Al Pascual, senior vice president of research and head of fraud and security at Javelin, via CNBC. But it’s not, especially if you look at the age breakdown. More than two-thirds of the affected children were age 7 or younger. 20 percent were 8 to 12 years old, and 13- to 17-year olds accounted for 14 percent.
There was another startling revelation from the report. Javelin Strategy reported that minors were more likely to know the identity thief than adults. An estimated 60 percent of minor victims knew the perpetrator personally compared to seven percent of adults.
Minors as Fraud Victims
Javelin’s report also disclosed that minors who have been notified of an information breach, 39 percent became fraud victims, compared to 19 percent of notified adults. With minors’ brief financial histories, fraudsters can create accounts and credit histories that appear legitimate. Some thieves go further with synthetic identity theft by producing identities by combining fictitious and real information.
There’s more. From 2011’s change to randomized Social Security numbers, a thief could also create profiles around a number before a victim’s history has developed. Worse yet, the crime can go undetected for years – and might only be discovered once the child has reached adulthood and tries to apply for student loans or a credit card.
Tips to Protect a Child’s Identity
So what can parents do? Here are some experts’ tips.
Keep data close: Do not overshare a child’s personal details, including Social Security numbers, even at the doctor’s office or summer camp. For older children, know the personal information they keep on their cellphones or computers and what they have shared with third parties. Once this information is in the open, it can be exploited.
Store valuable documents: Keep personal financial or sensitive information including birth certificates or Social Security cards out of plain sight. Lock them up in a safe or a password-protected device.
Freeze credit files: This can prevent the opening of new credit lines in a child’s name. Processes may vary by state, but your state attorney general and the three major credit reporting companies can provide details.
Watch for unusual activity: Pay attention to unusual phone calls, mailings for preapproved credit offers, or collection calls. A child could be the target, not the adult.