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Identity theft criminals may target U.S. children more than adults, a new report suggests.
A report by AllClear ID says that 10.2 percent of the child identities scanned (4,311 victims) had someone else using their Social Security number - 51 times more frequently than the 0.2 percent rate for adults in the same population.
The report shows stolen Social Security numbers for children as young as five months old are being used to secure employment, open credit card and bank accounts, purchase homes and automobiles and obtain driver's licenses. As a result of this new cyber epidemic, children are discovering their credit and credibility are destroyed just as they enter adulthood. As a consequence, they are being denied internships, student loans, and apartments due to attacks on their identity that occurred years earlier. Experts predict the damage to children will get even worse with healthcare identity theft on the rise.
"The data provides some disturbing evidence that identity thieves are targeting children due to the unique value of unused Social Security numbers," said Power, who has tracked the evolution of cyber crime over two decades. Main drivers for child identity theft, according to Power, include organized crime, illegal immigration and friendly theft, i.e., a relative or someone the child knows is committing the crime.
One report subject, a 14-year-old boy, unknowingly had $607,000 in fraudulent debt and a bad credit history that went back more than 10 years. Several credit cards and a foreclosed mortgage were already in his credit history, all from a suspect living in California. The thief established good credit for the first 10 years and was able to finance a $605,000 home in CA through first and second mortgages. He also used the boy's Social Security number to open several credit accounts.
"Although millions of stolen identities are exposed every year, it's not typically a crime that is associated with children," said Julie Fergerson, board member of the Identity Theft Resource Center and Former Chairman & Co-Founder of the Merchant Risk Council. "However, if an attack on your child goes undetected, it can have equally devastating consequences, such as the inability to win approval on student loans, obtain a job or secure a place to live."
The report offers an analysis of over 42,000 identity protection scans performed on U.S. children (age 18 and under) during 2009-2010. The research was conducted using a patented technology called AllClear ID™, a leading provider of identity theft protection solutions for consumers.
"Parents don't usually think about their children's credit, but to criminals, a child's identity is a blank slate, and the probability of discovery is low since the child will not be attempting to open a line of credit for long period of time," said Bo Holland, CEO of Debix. "The good news is that, with proactive monitoring, child identity theft is a solvable problem."