Feature Article
Mark Pribish
ID Theft and Safeguarding Your Child's Identity
By Mark Pribish
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader

In the February 2009 Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Consumer Sentinel Report - which reported on identity theft and fraud complaints for the year 2008 (click here to read the full report) -- most parents should know that seven percent of children (19 years old and younger) are at risk of having their social security numbers stolen and their identities compromised.

According to the 2009 FTC Report, over 20,000 children were victims of identity theft in 2008. That number is based on the actual number of victims which were reported to the FTC. As with any statistical information supporting this type of report, there were probably a significant number of children (e.g. possibly another 20,000 children) that were not reported to the FTC.

Also, based on this year's FTC Report, only 35 percent of identity theft was related to a financial event - which means that 65 percent of identity theft is related to a non-financial event, including (but not limited to):

  • Criminal ID Theft
  • Driver's License ID Theft
  • Medical ID Theft
  • Social Security Number ID Theft
  • Synthetic ID Theft

That said, no one company and no one parent can guarantee 100 percent protection of their child's identity - whether the source is a dishonest family member or an identity thief intent on breaching an organization by stealing sensitive employee and customer information.

Sensitive information that is used to facilitate child identity theft includes the names, dates of birth and social security numbers of children. This information can be found at current and former schools (ranging from elementary to college), medical groups and organizations (doctors, dentists and hospitals), employer groups (health insurance), financial institutions (bank account and 529 college savings accounts), and insurance companies (life, health and dental) - all of which continue to experience data breach events.

According to the ID Theft Resource Center (click here to read more), "child identity theft occurs when a child's identity is used by another person for the imposter's personal gain. The perpetrator may be a family member or someone known by the family. It could also be a stranger who purposely targets children because of the lengthy time between the theft of the information and the discovery of the crime."

An example of child identity theft is when an identity thief steals the name and social security number of a child to fraudulently create a new identity for himself or herself to obtain credit cards and personal loans. The same identity thief might use the same information to fraudulently gain employment, obtain a driver license, secure a residential lease, and/or to get access to a cell phone and other utilities.

So why have children and teenagers become a target for identity thieves? The primary reason is that parents (and children) do not discover a child's identity theft related event until a long period of time has passed from the initial event - sometimes years. Another common reason is that most parents (and children) do not access or learn about a child's credit bureau report until a teenager is applying for his or her first job or is applying for college.

To conclude, I have listed below some advice from the Identity Theft Resource Center on how to protect your child from ID Theft including:

  • Limit access to your child's Social Security number by not providing it on sports team sign-ups and other non-essential forms
  • Shred all papers that contain account or Social Security numbers
  • Do not carry your child's Social Security card or number in your wallet
  • College students should ask their school not to use their SSN as their college ID number
  • Social Security numbers should never be given out over the phone or on the Internet
  • Observe the mail. If bills, statements or credit card offers begin arriving in your child?s name, call the credit reporting bureaus to check on his or her credit record. There should be none.

Scam Central

"The Jury Duty Scam"

How It Works:
  • The SCAM baits the victim by creating a situation where the victim is fooled into believing that a warrant has been issued for their arrest.
  • An individual receives a telephone call from someone pretending to be a jury coordinator. The caller advises the individual that they have missed jury duty and a warrant has been issued for their arrest.
  • The victim never really received a notice for jury duty, but is upset and wants to quickly resolve the matter.
  • The caller asks the victim for their social security number, date of birth and other personal information for verification.
  • After a pause, the caller will return to the line to tell the victim that it was a mistake and the matter has been resolved.
What you should know:

The caller now has the pertinent information that can be used to commit identity theft or other fraud. Never give out any personal information over the phone especially if you did not initiate the contact. If you have been contacted in this manner, please contact the Merchants Credit Care center at 1.866.Smart68 (1.866.762.7868) or your local law enforcement agency and report it immediately.

If you believe your identity has been stolen, call 866.SMART68 today.