Keep Your Identity: Children’s Social Security numbers often more at risk than adults

Keep Your Identity: Children’s Social Security numbers often more at risk than adults

One year ago I wrote a column on children and identity theft. With the school year starting, it’s a good time to revisit that topic. While identity theft for all ages continues to be the No. 1 crime in the U.S., children identity theft is growing at a disturbing rate. Often identity theft takes place without the child or their family knowing about it.

According to a recent study at Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab, identity theft had impacted 10 percent of the children surveyed. That is not a typo. One in 10 children of the 43,000 studied had their identity stolen. Much of the identity theft that takes place today is driven by organized crime and illegal immigration. Social Security numbers and birth dates are primary targeted information.

While online hackers have long focused on financial institutions, online thieves have begun successfully targeting organizations like health care providers and schools that store vast amounts of children’s Social Security numbers. Quoting the study, “CyLab’s research discovered that there is currently no process or organizations such as employers or creditors to check what name and birth date is officially attached to the Social Security number, and thus verify the person presenting the number matches other characteristics associated with that number.” Someone will use your child’s Social security number with a different name and different birth date.

According to Steven Toporoff, staff attorney with the Federal Trade Commission, “Children’s identities are attractive because they are pristine. There is no good credit or bad credit attached to a child’s name.” Their identities present blank slates that thieves can build entire credit histories on and that can go undetected for years.

Do you think it’s difficult to get that information? According to Jennifer Walker, who works in the Social Security Administration, for $40 to $80 websites illegally sell 9-digit “credit privacy numbers” which are clean Social Security numbers mostly belonging to children.

There are numerous documented cases of children’s identity theft being stolen, with heartbreaking results. ABC news ran a story not too long ago about an incoming freshman at Vanderbilt, and someone had run up $1.5 million of debt using her Social Security number! The crime had started when she was 9. The identity thief stole her Social Security number and set up more than 42 false accounts. Months after uncovering the crime the young lady is still working to clear her credit. She still faces being rejected if she applies for a credit card or student loan, or tries to rent a car or a house.

The FTC website,, has a section under identity theft “Safe Guarding Your Child’s Future” which is a very helpful read. As has been stated many times by many people, you cannot prevent identity theft, any more than you can prevent the common cold. There are steps you can take to reduce the probability of identity theft, but you cannot prevent it. It can be an enormous task to take on yourself if someone in your family gets their identity stolen. Just as you protect your health, home and material objects with expert assistance against unplanned, unwanted events, you should considering obtaining that same protection for your family against identity theft. A good identity theft company will offer a family plan which covers the adults and children in the family, and provides the restoration services you will need to restore your name and credit. Some companies merely give you phone advice helping you solve your own identity theft problems, and send you a self-help kit in the mail. Others fix your problem for you as if it were their own. Be careful who you select.

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