When it comes to identity theft, no one is immune – not even children. In fact, children are a prime target for this crime. Kids are an extremely vulnerable population with little ability to protect themselves.
More than 1 million American children were identity theft victims last year, resulting in losses of $2.7 billion, according to a new report from Javelin Strategy & Research. Javelin found that two-thirds of those victims were under the age of eight.
Another key finding: Data breaches are more of a risk for minors than for adults. Of all the U.S. families notified that their personal information had been breached last year, 39 percent of the children became fraud victims, compared with 19 percent of the adults.
Criminals target minors because they’re a clean state that allows the crooks to do all sorts of bad things, such as open new credit card accounts, apply for loans and file fraudulent tax returns.
“Their Social Security number is unused. Their credit is pristine because they don’t have a credit file. And no one is checking their credit,” explained digital security expert Adam Levin, author of the book Swiped. “As a result, the bad guys can keep using their information for years before anybody finds out.”
By the time the crime is identified, the crooks are long gone and all the parents can do is try to clean up the mess.
Parents need to look for warning signs – anything that doesn’t make sense – such as mail that a minor should not receive. This would include a pre-approved credit offer, late payment notice, jury summons or collection notice.
“If you see something suspicious, don’t assume it’s a clerical error or a mistake,” Levin said. “You’ve got to do something. Contact the credit reporting agencies and find out if there’s a credit file. If there is, have it corrected and have it frozen.”
More information, including ways to protect your children: More than 1 million children were victims of ID theft last year