child-identity-theftI’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.