I’ve got 3 kids of my own. Two of them just experienced that dreaded first day of a new school year and one has just recently made an appearance in this world. If you’ve got kids of your own, then you understand the meaning behind my statement that they mean the world to me. I would do anything for them. Yet many of us, as parents, don’t even give a second thought to the idea that identity thieves might actually go after our children instead of us. After all, we’re the adults. We have the established credit histories, right? There’s more to gain from stealing from us… right?
Unfortunately that is wrong. Did you know that identity theft rates have doubled for children who are aged 5 or younger just in the past year? That is a very disturbing trend. Why are identity thieves going after the youngest among us?
Because they have a clean slate. They are not marred by bad financial decisions, a bad economy, past judgements, or any other negative information. Though there is no information because the average kindergartner is not going to apply for credit, that is better to the identity thief then running the risk of getting an adult’s identity that has a credit score below 600 and very little profitability from it. You can monitor your credit score for free at Credit Sesame.
Identity thieves also know that there is a very low risk of being discovered when the theft of a child’s identity occurs because let’s face it – how many times do we as parents actually check our kid’s Social Security numbers for activity? We’re too consumed with all the other activities in life that having young children brings, such as potty training, determining how to convince your picky eater that dinner is actually good for them, teaching letters and numbers, or going out to the park to experience the simple joy of a slide. We don’t think about the fact that someone might want our child’s identity to profit from it, and so some child identity theft events remain undiscovered until our children turn into adults and apply for student loans or their first car loan.
The problem is the system. When an identity thief gets a child’s Social Security number, they know that there will likely not be an activity on that number until they turn 18. All they must do then is establish their own credit history on the stolen account. They can do this because when a potential lender runs the SSN, they’ll find it to be valid. All a thief must do is provide their own information on that number with the proper identification and that’s really all it takes for the information to be added to the credit file on that SSN and a new credit line to be issued.
Then what do the identity thieves do? They build up debt and then disappear, leaving you and your child to deal with the problem. For one child, that meant $1.5 million in debts run up in 10 years because an identity thief used her SSN from the time she was 9 and she only found out about it at the age of 19 when she went to apply for what she thought would be her first line of credit. For another child, six different identity thieves were using her identity to their benefit.
Identity thieves use a child’s identity to get a job, to stay out of trouble from an arrest, or to even just open up new bank accounts. The costs can be high for both you and your child because a poor credit report could mean not getting a job, not getting a student loan, or even not getting into college. With stakes that high, we as parents really can’t afford to just sit back and do nothing… but just checking their credit reports doesn’t really do any good. That’s because the action is on the SSN.
Don’t think it will happen to your child? IdentityGuard reports that over 10% of people who check their child’s identity through the KidSure report find suspicious activity occurring. Over 10%! That means 1 out of every 10 families that read this post have a child that has likely had an identity stolen. Time to start taking your childs identity protection a bit more seriously. A credit monitoring plan that includes child protection can help.