Child identity theft

Does your toddler have a credit card?

They shouldn’t. But a new report shows that children are a more lucrative target for identity thieves than adults. On average, fraudsters are able to steal $2,303 by exploiting the identity of a minor, which is more than twice the average amount for adult victims. That’s according to a new report from Javelin Strategy & Research, which surveyed 5,000 parents and guardians.

Stealing the identities of minors isn’t child’s play. It can mean big money for criminals who, by targeting children, have a blank credit canvas on which to wreak havoc. The thieves steal a child’s personal information, such as a Social Security number, and then build a credit profile capable of duping lenders for years.

When compared with adults, the incidents of child identity theft are relatively small, with just under 2 percent of minors becoming victims. Yet Javelin put the losses in child identity theft at $2.6 billion last year.

The theives often create a “synthetic” identity, which combines real data with fake information.

What can you do?

First, regularly monitor your child’s credit reports. Go to annualcreditreport.com to get free reports every 12 months. If you see a fraudulent account, contact the business and file a police report.

Next, make sure you children do not share personal information online. Being internet savvy these days is a necessity we can’t afford to overlook.

If your child is a victim of identity theft, you may have the option to freeze their credit by contacting the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Experts say that doing that proactively (before an ID is stolen) is drastic, and only recommend this step in case of confirmed theft. Make sure your state allows parents and legal guardians to freeze a minor’s credit before attempting to take this step.

Stay safe out there.

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