The new data also showed that identity theft is increasing most quickly in young children. In fact, identity theft among children ages 5 and under grew 105% since last year - the highest growth rate of any age group - while 26% of children targeted were between the ages of six and ten, a 34% increase.
Young children are optimal targets for criminals, because they have yet to apply for anything to establish a credit history, so their identities are clean slates and thieves can use their information without being detected for many years. Thieves can easily attach a different name to a child’s Social Security number and use it to buy houses and cars, take out credit cards and lines of credit.
When the child, as a young adult, attempts to use his or her Social Security number for the first time to get a loan or job, the thief’s bogus information and negative credit history will show up and cause serious problems.
Based on extensive scans for nearly 27,000 children, the reported titled Child Identity Theft 2012, is a quantitative analysis of the results. There are no survey results included, as this report reflects the actual theft that children and their families have experienced.
The report includes a detailed analysis along with stories of real victims and the serious financial and emotional impact child identity theft has had on their families. Key takeaways from the report include:
- Criminals are targeting the youngest children. 15% of victims were five years old and younger, an increase of 105% over the 2011 findings.
- 26% of victims were six to ten years old, a growth of 34% from the 2011 report. This stands in sharp contrast to the rates for children over eleven that remained flat or decreased.
- 10.7% (2,875) of the minors included in the report had someone else using their Social Security numbers. This is an increase of .5% from the 10.2% rate reported in the 2011 report.
- The rate of identity theft for children was 35 times higher than the rate for adults in the same population.
- $1.5 million was the largest fraud committed. This was against a 19 year old girl whose Social Security number had been used since she was nine years old.
- The overall number of suspects fraudulently using Social Security numbers per child increased by 15% this year over the previous year’s report. One child had six suspects using her Social Security number.
There are steps that parents can take to ensure their child’s information is not being used fraudulently, including:
- Use free solutions designed specifically to detect child identity theft
- Guard their Social Security number
- Start scanning your child’s Social Security number when they are young
- Go beyond the credit report. Our data showed that 41% of the fraudulent activity was occurring at sources other than the credit bureaus
- Talk to your child about online privacy and information security
- Use social media with caution.