Study Reveals Children at High Risk for Identity Theft

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Identity thieves make their livings by preying on others, often targeting the trusting and defenseless because they see them as easy marks.  Unfortunately, some identity thieves take this to an appalling low and target the most trusting and most defenseless.  Instances of children having their identities stolen and used for credit card fraud are on the rise, and a recent study by Carnegie Mellon Cylab consulting group found that children are 51 times more likely to have their identities stolen than adults.

Stop and think about that for a second.  Now brace yourselves, because it gets worse.  Of the child victims included in the study, 54% of them were under the age of 12.  One was even a mere 5 months old.  Some of these children already have thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt on file with credit reporting agencies despite not being old enough to apply for credit lines.  Many of them will have debts expire from their credit reports before they even reach the age where they can create legitimate debts of their own.

You might be wondering how identity thieves can use the personal information of these children to establish credit lines if the children are too young to do so themselves.  All it takes is a little lie on the credit application, a little identity manipulation changing the date of birth to a year that would make the applicant appear over 18 years old.  Since most people don't think to monitor the credit reports of children, these thefts may go unnoticed for months or even years.

The reason that identity thieves target children is because it's much easier to get personal information out of children and they don't have to worry about children already having a lot of bad debt that would make the theft worthless.  Children also spend a lot more time online than many adults do so there are more opportunities for identity thieves to try and befriend children and find out the information.

This isn't to say that there's no way to stop identity thieves from targeting children.  Here are just a few tips for the parents out there to help you keep your children safe and to keep their Social Security numbers out of the hands of thieves and predators.

  • Consider signing up for id theft protection services. If you already use a service to monitor your own identity, find out how much it will cost to add a child to your account.  Some services will not only protect against credit fraud but also monitor other forms of identity theft as well.
  • Encourage your children to come to you if they think someone is asking them inappropriate questions.  This can not only help you stop identity theft but can also stop other online predators as well.

As a parent, it's our role to protect our children.  We just can't forget that danger lurks on the Internet just as it does in real life.  By being proactive against real world predators and cyber threats now, you just may save them from years of frustrations and costly financial losses later.

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