June 6, 2018
More than one million children in the U.S. suffered identity theft in 2017 according to the 2018 Child Identity Fraud Study
, completed by Javelin Strategy and Research. The report found that data breaches in particular tend to be very dangerous for children. Thirty-nine percent of children who had their information exposed in a breach became identity theft victims. In comparison, 19% of adults who had their data stolen faced the same fate.
Children are targets for identity theft because they offer clean credit reports. Since they likely have had no credit in the past, it is easy for thieves to get approved credit in the childâ€™s name. More than half of the children surveyed in Javelinâ€™s study knew the person who had stolen their identity. Only 7% of adult victims could say the same.
And child identity theft is costly. Javelinâ€™s report found that child identity theft caused $2.6 billion in total losses and cost victimsâ€™ families $540 million in out-of-pocket costs to help remedy the theft. But the costs donâ€™t stop thereâ€”child identity theft victims often have to dispute the fraudulent accounts and ruined credit for the rest of their lives. Many do not even realize that they have been victims until they go to rent their first apartment or buy their first car and are told that their credit is bad.
What to do
Unfortunately, child identity theft can be difficult to prevent. The first step parents or guardian must take is to determine whether your child currently has a credit report. This can be done by sending letters to the big three credit bureausâ€”Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The letters should request that the agency do a manual search of your childâ€™s Social Security number. The letter should contain a copy of the parent/guardianâ€™s government issued ID, proof of parent/guardianâ€™s address, a copy of childâ€™s Social Security card, and a copy of the childâ€™s birth certificate.
If the credit bureaus come back with reports in your childâ€™s name with accounts you did not set up, it is likely that your child is an identity theft victim. In that case, you should immediately contact the bureaus and ask them to freeze your childâ€™s credit and then work to close the fraudulent accounts.
If the credit bureaus come back with no report found, your child is safe for now. If you live in one of the 29 states that allow it, you should contact the bureaus again and ask them to open a credit report in your childâ€™s name and then freeze it. Unfortunately, there is no nation-wide law that allows this (although it has been proposed in the House of Representatives). You can check your stateâ€™s laws here
. If your state is not on the list, you should reach out to your representatives.
You should also take this time to talk to your children about identity theft and how to protect their information online. The earlier they begin understanding their online privacy, the better. Help them create strong passwords and talk to them about what information they should never share online.
Emerging threat: Your current credit freeze wonâ€™t stop this growing fraud
Have you frozen your credit? There may be one more thing you need to do. The Identity Fraud Institute has received multiple reports of people having fraudulent cell phone accounts opened in their names even after freezing their credit at Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. How? The director of the Identity Fraud Institute, Carrie Kerskie discovered that mobile phone companies were not using any of the big three credit bureaus when new account applications came in. Instead, they checked applicantâ€™s credit using the National Consumer Telecommunications and Utilities Exchange (NCTUE).
The NCTUE was founded by AT&T and maintains payment and account information reported by telecommunications companies. You can check your records at the NCTUE by calling (866) 349-5185. You can also freeze your file by calling this number or you can do it online
. Security expert Brian Krebs, however, attempted
to place the freeze online with no success.
The Equifax breach continues to get worseâ€”driverâ€™s licenses, passports, and other ID cards were also compromised
. This month Equifax submitted official documentation tor the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) detailing exactly what was exposed in its 2017 breach. Equifax originally reported that the breach exposed Social Security numbers and dates of birth of 143 million US consumers and the driverâ€™s license numbers and credit card numbers of some people. The new documentation indicates that much more information was exposed. Over 17 million people had their driverâ€™s license numbers exposed, over one million had email address shared, and thousands had personal identity documents stolen, such as passports and state IDs that were uploaded to Equifax. You can see the entire list here.
New scams targeting seniors are on the rise.
The first scam mimics local phone numbers and calls unsuspecting seniors pretending to be from the county clerk office. They tell the victim that they missed jury duty or that they were involved in a court case and are being fined. In the second scam, a call comes in pretending to be from the local police in regards to unpaid parking tickets. Again, they ask for payment now. Read this story
for some more information on how you can help protect the seniors in your life from these scams.
Stay alert and have a safe and happy summer!