(DATA DOCTORS) — Identity thieves prefer to steal a child’s ID because they know that it’s more likely to go undiscovered for years until the child is old enough to start applying for credit.
Q: I’ve heard the horror stories of a child’s identity being stolen. So, what should I be doing to protect my children’s identities?
A: It’s easy to think that ID theft is only a problem for adults, but statistics from last year show that a child’s ID is twice as likely to be stolen than an adult’s information.
Proof of this can be found on darknet marketplaces that sell stolen information that can be used for ID theft.
An adult’s stolen W2 can be purchased for as little as $35. On the other hand, an infant’s “fullz,” which includes the baby’s name, Social Security number, date of birth, and even mother’s maiden name, can fetch more than $300, according to Terbium Labs.
A blank canvas
With an infant’s stolen ID, thieves have free reign to use it for a large variety of nefarious activities that range from applying for credit to obtaining government benefits and healthcare to filing fraudulent tax returns.
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In some cases, your child’s Social Security number could be used to create a hybrid ID, which means that the scammers are essentially inventing a person that doesn’t exist.
If you find yourself in that type of mess, it can become even more complicated to untangle the fraud and regain control of your child’s identity.
How your child’s information is compromised
The danger starts the moment your child is assigned a Social Security number. That number can become vulnerable to theft as it’s used in the ordinary course of life.
The most likely area of exposure will come from the medical world, as this is most likely the first place you’ll be asked to use their Social Security number.
Of the over 2,500 reported data breaches over the past three years, more than half of them (1,338) were from companies related to the medical field, including providers and insurance carriers, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.
What you can do
Keeping tight control over any printed document with your child’s sensitive information is an obvious first step, along with making sure to shred anything you plan to discard.
When you are asked to provide your child’s SSN by anyone, make sure it’s really a requirement.
“Ask why it’s necessary and how it will be protected,” the Federal Trade Commission advises on its website. “Ask if you can use a different identifier, or use only the last four digits of your child’s Social Security number.”
Pay attention to your physical mail, especially junk mail. If your child’s name is listed as the recipient, it can be an early indication that someone is making use of your child’s identity.
In some cases, you can put a freeze on your child’s credit file. Make sure you keep the PIN required to unfreeze the file in a safe place that will get passed to your child in the event something happens to you.