The Family Room The Family Room Blog Home

Child identity theft a growing trend

An emerging crime trend impacting families today — and children tomorrow.

By Rich_Maloof Feb 21, 2013 9:22PM

Last year, a tearful teen was seen on TV describing how she and three other juveniles were victimized by child identity theft. This Midwest teenager owed $750,000 for homes and automobiles that someone else had purchased in her name.

Photo: Child identity theft / George Diebold/Getty ImagesThe theft of her information had occurred when she was 3 years old.

The crime is called child identity theft, and it’s a growing problem. An estimated one in every 40 households with young children is currently being impacted, ringing the alarm bell on a new need to prioritize and protect the sensitive information of every family member.

More from MSN Living: How dogs make our lives better

“Children are at 51 times greater risk of being targeted for identity theft than are adults, according to Carnegie Mellon University CyLab,”  says Robert P. Chappell, Jr., a veteran of law enforcement and of the Armed Forces. Struck by the number of fraud cases involving child identity scams he was fielding after a tour of duty overseas, Chappell recently authored “Child Identity Theft: What Every Parent Needs To Know.”

“Children are targeted because criminals have learned that a child’s personal information is of value,” Chappell explains. “This personal information consists of their name, date of birth and Social Security number. Criminals understand that by stealing a child’s information they have a longer period to abuse the identity before being discovered.”

More from MSN Living: 15 amazing, inspiring baby nurseries

Identity thieves use other people’s information to open credit cards and bank accounts, apply for loans, get government benefits and run up obscene amounts of debt — and can escape all debtors because their own identity is masked. Kids make ideal targets because the have completely clean credit records, if any credit file at all.

Since it’s a crime of identity and not directly of cash or goods, families of every income level are susceptible. A 2012 report published by the Identity Theft Assistance Center (ITAC) indicated that lower-income households were disproportionately affected, with 50 percent of all child identity thefts affecting those with household incomes under $35,000, though a full 10 percent with incomes over $100,000 were affected as well. Disturbingly, “friendly fraud” — identity theft committed by a family member or friend — was to blame in 27 percent of reported cases.

Bing: A shocking number of identity thefts happen every day

Child identity fraud is hard to detect and difficult to resolve. According to the ITAC, the mean detection time for child ID frauds is nearly a year, while detection time for adult cases is under two months. A major concern is that the theft of a child’s identity can go undetected for years, not coming to light until the victim applies for his or her first job or tries to rent a first apartment — at which point the victim learns he or she is shackled with false debt and bad credit.

Robert Chappell recommends several preventive actions for parents and children. The first step is to obtain a free annual report from one of the three credit agencies. Though untangling oneself from the mess of a criminal’s fraudulent debt can be laborious and infuriating, each agency does have a resolution center and advice for safeguarding family identities (follow these links for TransUnion, Experian and Equifax).

Additional actions:

• Don’t share your child’s Social Security number. When asked for it on school or medical forms, ask whether optional information can be substituted, or whether you can use just the last four SSN digits.

• Tell your children not to place his/her birth date or address on social networking sites.

• Register all family phone numbers on the Do Not Call List.

• Shred sensitive information. Don’t discard pages from bills, credit cards or bank statements with readable information.

• Educate your children on the risks of giving away personal information.

To learn more, visit the ITAC and Federal Trade Commission pages dedicated to combating child identity theft.

More from Family Room:
Teen mom denied right to breast feed
Toddler death raises concern over car seat rules
Violent video games and child aggression

Subscribe to The Family Room

Love content like this? Friend us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and find us on Pinterest.

Photo: Child identity theft / George Diebold/Getty Images

Feb 26, 2013 8:57AM
I've known about this for years in most cases it's actually been the parent as the first perpertrator. When Mom or Dad's credit gets whacked due to their fault. they seem to have no problem with using their child's SS# to apply for credit. I really think this country should move back a few steps and stop providing SS#'s at birth. Let the child apply at 16 like it was the norm back in the day. You needed your SS# to apply for working papers at  the age of 16. that way no one has your info. until you are at least of legal age to begin working. at birth allows too many eyes from hospital personnel to parents to have access to this crucial info that helps identify us in this country.
Feb 26, 2013 8:23AM
Always check your kids' credit if going through a divorce/custody battle; better yet, but them on credit watch.

Have your teens learn how they can check their credit; this is the federally mandated website rolled out during the GW Bush administration, not that crap you see on TV.

You get info from all 3 agencies, free once a year.


Feb 26, 2013 7:53AM
How does anyone under age get credit cards and such where they can buy large dollar items in the first place?  Identity theft could be basically stopped by passing a simple law.  The law requires that anytime a credit card is used, the user must present a valid government ID to verify their identity.  This is not rocket science here.  But obviously the government and credit card companies don't much care since they have made no efforts to stop this.
Feb 26, 2013 7:07AM
This just happened to my daughter. Today. Pain in the bums...
Feb 26, 2013 2:55AM
I don't understand why in this country a child is able to obtain credit of any kind.  Only an adult can enter into a legal contract, so why are these criminals able to get loans and credit cards with a child's identity at all?  If these corporations actually paid attention, then this wouldn't even be a problem.
Feb 26, 2013 2:54AM
MSM is stupid for even thinking this is not a problem.It has been going on for years!Must be a slow day for beatin on the GOP....   Sigh
Feb 26, 2013 2:50AM
My ex wife's husband stole my daughter's identity when she was 20.  He opened up a phone bill and electric utility in her name, ran up bills of about 1500.00 in each then walked away.  She had no idea until she tried to open utilities in her name when she was 21.  She had a friend who was able to have the phone bill removed however she had to pay the electic bill.  Luckily that was all he did to her.  She said he had already done it to his 3 children and had no reservations doing it to her. 
Feb 26, 2013 2:30AM
If they are checking for the SS# to match a name why wouldn't they also match it to the date of birth on record and see the giant red flag that a baby/child is using a credit card or buying a house, etc? Why in the world would any credit be administered to a minor....dumb. Seems this should be an easy catch early on.
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?

News, stories, tips and laughs for moms & dads

  • Mom group (Shuttershock)

    The 10 mom friends every mom needs

    Do you have the right mix of moms surrounding you?

  • Indoor activities for kids

    Beat the chill: 5 indoor activities for tots

    It's hard to keep young kids entertained while being confined indoors, but fear not, for we have some fun ideas to keep the entire family from climbing the walls during rainy days.

  • Great school backpacks for kids

    50 of the best backpacks for back to school

    Back in our day, ending up with the same exact backpack as your BFF was a legitimate back-to-school concern. Nowadays? There are so many options, it's dizzying!

  • Roasted broc and mozz sandwich

    9 school lunch ideas that are healthy (mostly)

    It is a parent’s eternal dilemma: What do I make the kids for lunch today? And tomorrow? And next week? We fall into ruts, succumb to the tried-and-true, give in to our children’s demands for junk food. No more! These school lunch ideas—for everything from sandwiches to snacks to hot meals—will freshen up your daily routine, so much so you may be tempted to make them for yourself.

  • homework

    6 things parents need to stop doing this school year

    Whether your kids have recently gone back to school or are preparing to go shortly, it's never too late to start thinking about how we can make this year successful and low-stress, both for our kids and ourselves. With that, here are 6 things parents might want to stop doing this year in order to make it the best one yet...for all of you!

  • Smoothie coloring books

    10 fun food things to do on a school night

    Some families spend their after-dinner time playing card games, watching television, or prepping for the next day. And that is fine and dandy, but be sure to incorporate some new, fun games and activities into your evenings to keep it fresh and exciting during the school year.

  • Courtesy of Retailers

    25 hottest fall accessories under $15

    Head back to school in style with these fashionable, affordable picks

  • Easing first day jitters

    Easy ways to make drop-off great on the first day of preschool

    Helpful tips for easing first day jitters.

  • iStockPhotos

    Money-saving ideas for back-to-school shopping

    Get savvy tips for saving cash on your children's school supplies

  • Andrew McCaul

    5 secrets of super-organized parents

    There's the list of supplies the school sends you; then there's what your kid really needs. Here's how to get off to a smart start and keep things organized all year.

  • school (Courtesy of Seventeen)

    13 first day struggles we all went through

    After a long, fun, and relaxing summer, the thought of going back to school is a harsh one. It's only been three months since you walked the halls of your school, but it might as well have been an eternity because your brain pretty much remembers nothing. From getting lost trying to find your class in Hallway C to trying to figure out which table to eat at for lunch, here are just some of the many first day struggles we've all been through.

  • Pencil cups via gingersnapcrafts.com

    10 back-to-school DIY ideas from Pinterest

    It's time to start rifling through bins of composition notebooks, glue sticks and highlighter pens. Your kids are heading back to school! We've rounded up 10 relatively easy DIY ideas from Pinterest to satisfy any crafty (or wannabe) parent. Send your kids off with one of these cute concepts that are sure to deliver lots of 'likes' on your Facebook page.

buzzing now on msn living
follow us
follow us follow us on facebook follow us on pinterest follow us on twitter
family videos