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Fighting Child Identity Theft with Education and Awareness

Written by Peter Schoenrock on April 12, 2012 in Credit  |   10 comments

Years ago, parents were asked if they knew where their children were. Today, parents have a new concern: child identity theft. In 2011, more than 19,000 child identity theft complaints were reported to the Federal Trade Commission, compared with approximately 6,000 complaints in 2003. Children…

Years ago, parents were asked if they knew where their children were. Today, parents have a new concern: child identity theft.

In 2011, more than 19,000 child identity theft complaints were reported to the Federal Trade Commission, compared with approximately 6,000 complaints in 2003.

Children are at risk because they are essentially blank slates in the credit world. Identity theft scammers have caught on to this opportunity and are taking advantage by stealing children’s identities and selling them on the open market.

Child identity theft most often occurs when someone gets a hold of a Social Security number or other personal information for a minor and uses it to apply for credit, apply for a job, get a driver’s license, tap into a family’s medical health insurance benefits, or even apply for government benefits.

Sometimes the identity thieves are professional criminals, but often, the thief can be a close relative or friend with access to sensitive personal information. A family member may take a child’s Social Security number and open up credit accounts or set up utilities.

The family member who pilfers a child’s identity might not realize the extent of the possible long-term damage, but if they don’t pay their bills or rack up debt or have a history of late payments, that negative information is entered on the child’s credit file and stays there. Child identity theft can go unchecked for years. Often the first sign of child identity theft is revealed when the child becomes an adult and is turned down for their first apartment, or is rejected for their first credit card.

Children are supposed to have a completely blank credit file. Parents have the responsibility to protect their children’s personal information. If parents are informed and aware of how to protect this information, they have a much greater chance of protecting against and preventing child identity theft.

In a Child Identity Theft study recently commissioned by Equifax, research firm Vantedge found that more than 80 percent of parents with minor children are still largely unaware of the threat of the child identity theft.

Younger parents are more tuned into the dangers of identity theft. Almost 50 percent of the survey respondents who were “extremely familiar” with child identity theft were between ages 25 and 34, and 87 percent of those have children are 10 or younger.

The group of survey respondents most familiar with child identity theft also recognizes the danger. “Extremely familiar” parents were two times more likely to rate their level of concern as a nine or 10 on a scale of one to 10.

The extremely familiar respondents were also ones with a close personal connection to child identity theft. Thirteen percent of total survey respondents have a friend or family member who is the parent of a victim of child identity theft, and 11 percent have a friend or family member who is a victim of child identity theft.

Clearly, it’s time to spread awareness and education about child identity theft. The numbers of children whose identities are stolen grows every year. But by educating parents to take steps to help prevent child identity theft, we can begin to stem the rising tide of this problem. Don’t wait until your child or family becomes a victim of identity theft to start looking for the warning signs.

Equifax is committed to arming parents with the tools you need to help protect your own identities and the identities of your children.

We recently launched Equifax Complete Family Plan as a product to educate parents and help guard against the threat of identity theft. It offers families the most comprehensive identity protection and credit monitoring features available from Equifax for two adults and up to four minor children.

Please continue to return to the Finance Blog and Equifax.com for more resources and education on child identity theft.

Have you or someone in your family been a victim of child identity theft? Share your story in the comments below.

10 comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    How do I know or find out if my child is a victim of identity theft how can I check?

    • Equifax Finance Blog editor, JF says:

      Thank you for reading the blog. Child identity theft is a serious and growing problem. Read here for more information on child identity theft and how to protect your family.
      http://blog.equifax.com/credit/protecting-the-innocent-the-basics-of-child-identity-theft/
      http://blog.equifax.com/credit/what-to-do-if-your-child-is-a-victim-of-identity-theft/

    • EFX Moderator, EM says:

      I’m so sorry to hear that both of your children have been victims of identity theft. Identity theft is increasing and identity thieves can be sneaky. We have blogs posted with information on what to do if your child is a victim of identity theft. In the end, the lender is the final decision maker as to whether to accept the claim of fraud or not. I recommend providing as much proof as possible so that your claim is accepted and the accounts are removed from your child’s credit report. Thank you for posting and I wish you both well.

      • Angry Mom says:

        In the end, the lender is the final decision maker as to whether to accept the claim of fraud or not?!?!?!?! That is why our children’s credit is being destroyed by these low lifes who can’t pay their own bills so they start over with our kids!!! I am currently battling this issue with two of my children. My ex-husband stole their identities!!!! I have filed police reports and provided all the proof they needed!!!! Fact of the matter is credit reporting companies need to step in and be a little more help on this issue!!! It should not be left up to the companies, lenders and/or who ever it is that does the reporting. It should be left up to the courts and the credit reporting companies. They do a report on the growing dangers of identity theft on Children but they dont make it any easier for parents to check their kids credit reports unless they pay extra for it!!! that should be free!!! Credit reporting companies are taking advantage of people by making profit off of this. Shame on you guys!!!! I have to pay a monthly fee to keep an eye on my credit because of my exhusband. You guys should be ashamed of yourselves!!! but i guess I have no choice.

        • EFX Moderator, EM says:

          I can certainly understand why you’re angry. This sounds like a very frustrating situation. You have accomplished the first step though: you filed police reports. With the police reports and the copy of your children’s credit report, I recommend contacting each of the lenders with this information. We have a blog with step-by-step instructions here: http://blog.equifax.com/credit/what-to-do-if-your-child-is-a-victim-of-identity-theft/

          Since the identity thief is your ex-husband, he probably knows your children’s personal information and could do this again. I recommend reviewing the Equifax Complete Family Plan. It monitors the credit reports of all of your family members and it will create a blank credit file using for your children and keep that account locked until they are 18. We have a review of it here: http://blog.equifax.com/family-money/review-equifax-complete-family-plan/

          Again, I am so sorry that this happened to you and I wish you and your family well. Thanks for posting.

        • Mom Demanding Answers says:

          Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry to hear that this too has happened to you and your children. I experienced this for the first time with my 11 year old son becoming a victim this year as well. I was initially dead set on the fact that it had to be his father/my ex husband, that had done such a blasphemous thing. But as far as he “claim”, it was NOT him. Now, that it’s tax season and I recently attempted to file as I normally would. I’m now afraid that the tax preparer’s office was involved with this. However, after contacting the IRS, equifax and the tax preparer’s I’ve had no direct answer’s, resolve, or course of action for restitution regarding this matter. I pray this travesty works out through much more fighting and attention and the scum responsible eventually pays for all ID theft victims (especially children).

        • Angry father says:

          I totally agree with you Angry Mom for I am an angry father. I have been the victum of identity theft by my ex, whom opened several charge accounts and bank accounts at different banks in my name only. How could she do that and because I worked all day and she intercepted the mail for 7 years, they say the accounts are mine. Even when you google my name, it comes up female and I am a mechanic, how much more proof, plus its not my signature do they need? They sent me 1099 c’s. I’m so afraid to look at my children’s credit but going to have too to see what she has done to them.

          It is a total shame, we have 3 children together.

          • EFX Moderator, EM says:

            What a difficult situation. Although you might be scared to see what’s hidden in your children’s credit reports, it could be helpful to get any inaccuracies taken off now before they are adults applying for student loans or financing a car. Here are some tips on protecting your family from identity theft. It is a shame that it happened but there’s no reason to let the problem linger or even get worse. I hope this helps and good luck to you and your family.

  2. S. Davis says:

    Over a year ago I pushed my teenage daughter to open her own checking account to learn responsibility. Our credit union runs a report on any new member regardless of age. Much to our dismay, our daughter already has a mortgage, 2 auto loans and several credit cards under her social security number. The bigger issue is getting this cleared up. If you are under 18 and have credit complaints it all has to be done by mail and not by phone or over the internet. To date, this is all still on her report.

    • Anonymous says:

      @ S. Davis,
      The really sad part about your situation is…They know its fraud and yet they still do nothing…and do not care to, or care either.
      So no matter the facts, you can be as cautious as possible with yours or your childs info, if the thieves want your info they will get it.
      How easy you make it for them to get is the only thing you can do.
      My friend has a five year old with 3 credit cards, apperantly there isn’t a law that forces them to remove fraudulant activity from thier credit so they will simply not…


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