Con Watch: Stealing the Identities of Children

Steve Weisman is a lawyer, college professor, author, and one of the country’s leading experts in cybersecurity, identity theft, and scams. See Steve’s other Con Watch articles.

According to a recent Harris Poll, 48% of American adults believe that they will become identity theft victims in the next year. As startling as this figure is, a study by the Carnegie Mellon CyLab concluded that children are 51 times more likely to become victims of identity theft than adults, and yet many people are unaware of what a serious problem child identity theft poses.

In the last few years, children have become prime targets of identity thieves. A recently released study by Javelin Strategy & Research indicates that a million American children became victims of identity theft last year at a cost of $2.6 billion in total losses to the families. If a thief is able to get identifying information on a child, such as the child’s Social Security number, he can obtain credit in the child’s name. The identity thief never pays back the money accessed through the child’s credit, and the child is burdened with a bad credit report that can have numerous harmful effects: the victim may be turned down when he or she applies for credit, applies for a job, applies for a scholarship, or seeks to rent an apartment. Often the identity theft is not discovered until years after it first happens, which makes it more difficult to remedy.

How to Prevent Child Identity Theft

What to Do If You Find Evidence of Child Identity Theft

If, despite your best efforts, your child has become a victim of identity theft (which most commonly comes to you attention when your child receives notices of outstanding bills), you should do the following: