In a report published by Carnegie Mellon CyLab, evidence indicates children as young as five months old are being targeted for unused social security numbers.
In a study analyzing identity protection scan data of more than 40,000 U.S. children from 2009-2010, findings revealed that 10.2%, or more than 4,000, had been victims of identity theft. This compares .2% of adults whose identity had been compromised during the period. The largest fraud was committed against a 16-year old girl from Arizona that totaled $725,000. They found her social security number linked to eight different suspects and that it had been used to open 42 credit accounts including mortgages, auto loans, credit cards and other bills that had gone to collections.
The study found the most common reasons for identity theft to be: obtaining false ID for employment in cases of illegal immigration; organized crime or financial fraud, and; friends or family using the child’s information to circumvent bad credit scores, etc.
Key points included in the analysis:
- Unused social security numbers can be used with any birth date or name, making this useful for illegal immigration purposes.
- The probability of discovery that a child’s identity has been stolen is low, as many years may pass before the child will seek to establish credit on his/her own.
- Identity theft can have a profound impact on a child’s future as it can interfere with such things as job opportunities, apartment rental or obtaining student loans.
Tips to Protect Your Child’s Identity
Here are some tips to help make sure your child’s information stays safe:
- Check to see if your child has a credit report on a yearly basis.
- Be suspicious of any pre-approved credit offers that are mailed to your child. This could indicate that there is an open credit file in your child’s name.
- Teach your child about personal data and make sure they know not to share personal information on social networking sites or anywhere else online.
- Do not use your child’s information yourself, even if it may seem as harmless as opening a utility account.
- Keep your child’s information inaccessible to others.
- If your child needs access to their social security number while away at college, make sure they know not to carry their social security card in their wallet or purse.
- Consider freezing your child’s credit. There may be a small fee, but this will keep new lines of credit from being opened and you can un-freeze if needed temporarily or when your child turns 18.
Data Breaches Continue to Grow
In 2016, the U.S. experienced an increase in data breaches of 40% from 2015. Most recently in 2017, Equifax has reported a massive data breach that may affect almost half of the country, or 143 million Americans.
As world data continues to grow exponentially, cyber criminals have increased opportunity to breach massive volumes of data. Per Digital Guardian:
- Data production will be 44 times greater than it was in 2009; a 4,300% increase in annual data generation
- By 2020, over one-third of all data will live in or pass through the cloud
“This is reason Number 10,000 to check your online bank statements and credit card statements on a regular basis, ideally weekly,” said Matt Schulz, of CreditCards.com. “Bad guys can be very patient, so it’s important to keep an eye out long after this story fades from the headlines.”