ID thieves target children | News
HUNTSVILE, AL (WAFF)- Could your pre-schooler have a maxed-out credit card or a home mortgage? If identity thieves have stolen their social security number, they might.
A new report from AllClear ID showed identity theft for children five years or younger grew 105 percent over the past year. It is the fastest growth rate of any age group.
In a study of nearly 27,000 children, identity thieves targeted 10.7 percent of them. The risk is 35 times greater for kids than for adults.
Experts believed identity thieves target kids because they present a clean slate. They have not yet applied for a credit card or a student loan, so there is a lot of opportunity to abuse their credit.
Since it can be years before the child actually applies for a loan, utility or cell phone account, the theft can go undetected for long periods of time.
"It's really important to detect these problems while your child is still young and you have plenty of time to get the information repaired," said Jamie May, child identity theft investigator. "What you don't want is your child to run into this problem when they are taking their first steps towards adulthood. It's just really heartbreaking when we work with victims who have been turned down for a student loan and had to miss a semester of school or missed out on a job internship because they didn't know they had a problem until it was too late."
May said checking your child's credit report is not enough because that only detects fraud if the scammer used your child's correct name and birthday. It they just took the Social Security Number and used a fake name and birthday, a credit report will not detect the misuse.
"The most important thing you can do is to protect the information and do as best you can to keep it out of the wrong hands in the first place," said May. "It seems like every sign up form has a field for the Social Security Number these days, wither it is Girl Scouts or after school soccer. Don't be afraid to question if they really need that information and what it is going to be used for, and if they don't really need it, decline to give it."
She added parents should protect their computers with passwords and antivirus software. AllClear ID also offers a free child identity theft scan that will check any misuse with your child's Social Security Number.
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