Identity theft among children under 17 is growing. In 2017, more than one million children were victims of identity theft or fraud, a recent 2018 report from Javelin Strategy & Research found.
Most victims were under 12 years old, with 66 percent seven years old or younger, and 20 percent eight to 12 years old. Six in every 10 young victims also personally knew the perpetrator, compared with only seven percent of adults.
This story will get your readers’ attention as you look at the following angles, which focus on two emerging types of identity theft that are compromising the financial security of young children:
Why is identity theft growing among children?
A change of law to protect the integrity of the Social Security number created an entirely new problem when the original system for issuing numbers, based on chronology and geography, changed to a randomized system in 2011. According to chief compliance officer Ken Meiser at credit and risk management company ID Analytics, “It is now extremely difficult for risk managers to distinguish between SSNs that were legitimately issued and those numbers that are being illegitimately asserted.”
Try interviewing Meiser or similar sources, as well as a few local risk managers to explain the issue to your readers.
How does a thief get hold of my child’s personal information?
Young children are tempting targets because they are “blank slates” that makes it possible for thieves to open multiple lines of credit. Using a combination of real and fictitious information (“synthetic” identity theft), the thief creates a new identity. The second (“familiar identity theft”) is shockingly easy: The thief—usually a family member—just steals the child’s personal information.
Good sources on this angle include: Al Pascual at Javelin, Melba Amissi, chief operating officer at Identity Guard, which sponsored the Javelin report, and Eva Velasquez at the Identity Theft Resource Center.
What can I do to protect my child’s identity from thieves?
A bill in the House of Representatives would require the SSA to develop a database to protect Social Security numbers, but parents can take several valuable steps now to protect their children:
Don’t share your child’s Social Security number with everyone who asks for it; be aware of what personal information your child stores on their electronic devices and shares with third parties; keep paper documents such as birth certificates and tax returns out of sight; and protect, and change regularly, the passwords on your home electronic device.
Depending on where you live, you may be able to freeze your child’s credit file; check with the office of your state’s attorney general and the three credit reporting agencies. Also check for red flags, such as unusual calls or collection calls, pre-approved credit card offers or a jury summons in your child’s name.
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