Child identity theft rising quickly, report says
According to an identity protection company based in Austin, Texas, child identity theft is on the rise and moving fast. Very fast.
AllClear ID released its 2012 Child Identity Theft Report, which showed that a disturbing 10.7 percent of the children in the study were victims of ID theft -- 35 times higher than adults.
The age group with the fastest growth rate of identity theft is children 5 and under. The number of children in this age group who became victims of ID theft grew 105 percent since 2011. Children between the ages of 6 and 10 accounted for 26 percent of the victims.
The report, which is based on research into data provided by the company's customers (not a survey), explains why children are such easy targets for identity thieves. Because they have not yet used (and thus potentially tarnished) their credit in any way, children's identities are blank slates for thieves. With a child's Social Security number, a criminal could likely continue fraud for years without it ever being noticed -- until the child gets older and attempts to start building a credit history of their own.
The AllClear ID study examined inquiries regarding nearly 27,000 children -- some with frightening tales. One child from the study had six suspects using her Social Security number. Another had a total of $1.5 million in fraud against her by the time she was 19. Her SSN had been used since she was 9.
"It's important for parents to understand the child ID heft is a real and growing trend," says AllClear ID CEO Bo Holland. "Rather than letting this trend continue, consumers -- parents especially -- should take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of their child's livelihood. "
Here are some of the steps for parents to take suggested in the release:
- Contact each of the three main credit bureaus and request a Social Security number search. See CreditCards.com's story, Step-by-step guide to checking your minor child's credit.
- Start scanning the child's SSN when they are young.
- Explain online privacy to children.
The report, Child Identity Theft 2012, is based on extensive database scans of accounts (credit, utilities, employment, etc.) opened by real companies using children's Social Security numbers. Scans on 26,989 children were performed between Sept. 1, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2011. The participants were enrolled in AllClear ID protection either after receiving notification that their personal information may have been compromised during a data breach or after enrolling in protection services on their own.
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