by Broderick Perkins
(10/19/2011) - Children, more and more often, are being targeted by
identity thieves because kids have clean financial records that allow
identity thieves to fly under the radar for years after they use a child's
October 12-22 is National Protect Your Identity Week and the Consumer
Federation of America (CFA) is raising awareness about the child variety
with a host of useful information on its IDTheftInfo.org
When someone steals your identity, you don't wander around aimlessly
like some John or Jane Doe. Instead, someone pilfers enough of your personal
identifying information — name, address, Social Security Number, drivers
license, credit and financial account numbers, and the like — then
masquerades as you to make purchases, withdraw cash or otherwise undermine
your financial assets and your name.
The crime could cost you money lost outright and money
to repair your credit. It could also temporarily -- but for quite a while --
put the kibosh on your attempts to land a mortgage, refinance, get a credit
card and proceed with other financial activity.
For kids, it can be even worse.
"Children today are being targeted for identity theft because their records are clean – they don't have bad
credit or other types of fraud associated with their names or Social
Security numbers," said Susan Grant, CFA's Director of Consumer Protection.
"That makes children's personal information very attractive to identity
thieves to use for employment, open credit accounts, and other illegal
purposes," Grant added.
Kids also have become easy targets for ID thieves because of the exposure
offered by popular social networking sites on the Internet. In their naiveté, kids are too often willing
to give out information that can be used fraudulently. Parents also
contribute to the problem when they don't take care to secure their kid's
The Federal Trade Commission reported that
victims age 19 and under accounted for 8 percent of the identity theft
complaints that it received in 2010.
Time isn't on their side
It can be years before a child's stolen identity is discovered.
"Child identity theft is often not discovered until the victims become
adults and try to get jobs, apartments, or loans for college," said Ms.
Grant. "Parents need to take steps now to reduce the risk of someone
stealing their child's identity," Grant said.
It can be even worse for foster children, because they often lack a
family support system to see them through the ordeal, according to California Office of Privacy Protection, A Better
Start: Clearing Up Credit Records for California Foster Children, which
outlines a pilot project on how to determine if foster children are identity
theft victims and, if they are, steps to take to cure the problem.
Head this advice
Matt Cullina, CEO of Identity Theft 911 and a member of CFA's Identity Theft
Service Best Practices Working Group, offers the following tips to ward off
Guard you child's Social Security card and other documents containing
their Social Security number. Only carry them when needed for a specific
purpose. Also, don't leave Social Security or other identification
information lying around the house, office or school where others can see
If a child's personal Social Security number is requested, ask
why. It may not be necessary, or other information could be used as an
alternative. If you must provide a child's Social Security number, ask how
it will be used, who will have access to it, and how it will be protected
from fraudulent use. If the information is not going to be retained, ask how
it will be destroyed or returned to you.
Cross-shred documents containing children's Social Security
numbers and other personal information before disposing of them.
Don't post children's pictures online. Many digital cameras have
geocoding features that embed the location where the pictures were taken.
This can help identity thieves link children's names to their addresses.
Don't give children their Social Security numbers until they
understand how and why to protect them.
As your children age, make sure they understand the risks of
social networking and the need to keep sensitive personal information
private. Teach them to create strong passwords, avoid accepting friend
requests from strangers, and to be careful when clicking on links or taking
quizzes. The Federal Trade Commission also offers excellent
information about protecting children's privacy.
Parents should watch for signs of child identity theft such as
preapproved offers of credit, bills, and debt collection notices in a
child's name. Parents should only check for credit reports related to their
children if there is reason to suspect that identity theft has occurred.
Children shouldn't have credit reports associated with their names and
Social Security numbers. Checking for a credit report can actually create a
credit report identity thieves could then exploit.
More news about identity theft.
Identity Theft: It's Big Business
Identity theft tops consumer complaint list, 'imposter scams' debut
Identity Theft Protection Services, Are They Worth It?
Identity Theft on the Internet
Protecting Seniors From Fraud