Child Identity Theft is on the Rise and Here’s What You Need to Know

When a data breach strikes, you worry about the security of your private information, but what about that of your child? Despite the fact that most young children don’t yet have a financial footprint, thieves are targeting their identities at an alarming rate, according to Experiean, one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies.

More than 1 million children, some as young as 12 years old, had their identities stolen in 2017 resulting in losses of $2.6 billion and more than $540 million in out-of-pocket costs to the families, according to Javelin Strategy & Research.

What’s even scarier? More than half of child identity theft victims do not find out about their identity has been stolen until they apply for credit—sometimes years later, after much damage has been done.

According to the report, child identity theft is very lucrative for thieves because there is typically no credit history established for the children who become victims. Once scammers get a hold of a child’s Social Security number or other personal information, they can open new bank or credit card accounts, take out loans, and apply for government benefits.

“A child’s SSN is like gold to identity thieves and clean slates for criminals to do damage over possibly a long period of time,” says Michael Bruemmer, vice president of consumer protection at Experian.

If your child is a victim of identity theft, the unfortunate reality is that it isn’t an easy situation to remedy. The resolution process can drag out for years and 25 percent of victims are still dealing with issues over 10 after the fraud first occurred, according to the report.

To combat this problem, parents can lock up personal documents and keep personal information private, shred documents, open and monitor credit, and maintain privacy online.