What do a 6-month-old baby and a 17-year-old teenager have in common? They can both easily fall victim to identity theft.
The first thing most parents do after bringing home their newborn is to apply for a Social Security card for the baby. Although children from infancy up through high school likely do not have credit cards or bank accounts, they are targets for identity thieves because a theft of their personal information can go undetected for years, while the thief lives high on the hog.
Identity theft statistics are not kept for victims under the age of 18, but it’s estimated that more than 500,000 children are victimized by identity thieves each year. Thieves look for Social Security information by hacking into databases kept by schools, doctors and insurance companies. Some even sell the unused numbers to people who use them to obtain credit cards or commit other crimes. Criminals can stack up huge debt, that they will most likely never have to repay – it all falls on the shoulders of your unsuspecting child.
Why do thieves like to steal the identities of children? In addition to the fact that the theft goes undetected for so long is the fact that the credit records of children are unblemished. Some thieves use their own children’s information to start over or pay bills they can’t pay themselves.
What can you do to protect your child? First of all, don’t carry the child’s Social Security card with you, and don’t give out the number unless it is absolutely necessary. Make sure you ask how the number will be used and stored, and if it will be shared with anyone else before you give it to anyone. Shred documents that contain your child’s information before disposal.