Your Child’s Identity May Have Already Been Stolen

When was the last time you checked your child’s credit report? According to a recent report on NBC’s TODAY Investigates, identity thieves are stealing baby social security numbers and racking up thousands of dollars of debt without anyone knowing. In fact, there are thousands of victims nationwide – and most don’t get discovered for years.

How is this possible? There is a problem with our current system of using social security numbers (SSNs) as identification

  • First – the way the number is generated. You probably don’t know this but your social security number is basically a code, whereby the first 3 digits indicate the state of birth, and the last 6 stand for an approximate date of birth. With very little effort, thieves can predict social security numbers – even before a child is born.
  • Next – there is a flaw in the way the number is used.
    • When someone applies for a loan, banks typically only check the social security number to see if the credit is good. Most banks do not even check if the name on the loan application matches the social security number because there is a fee to do this.
    • According to a 2011 Carnegie Mellon CyLab report, there is also currently no process for organizations, like an employer or creditor, to check what name and birth date is officially attached to a SSN. As long as an identity thief has a SSN with a clean history, the thief can attach any name and date of birth to it.
    • Finally, because many commercial and public sector entities do not treat Social Security numbers as unique identifiers. It is possible for one SSN to appear on multiple credit files, employment reports, criminal history – all mapped to different names.

How big a problem is this? Really big. In fact:

  • According to the CyLab report – out of 40,000 children, approximately 4,300 had someone else using their social security number. This is >10%!
  • The largest fraud was for $725,000
  • The youngest known victim was 5 months old.

What are the consequences? According to TransUnion, one of the 3 national credit reporting companies:

  • Identity theft will affect your child’s credit and employment history if the thieves obtain credit cards or even get jobs.
  • If the thieves are arrested for other crimes, those crimes will go on your child’s record.

Things to watch for:

  • Your child begins to receive suspicious mail, like pre-approved credit cards and other financial offers normally sent to adults, in his/her own name.
  • You try to open a financial account for him/her but find one already exists, or the application is denied because of a poor credit history.
  • A credit report already exists in his/her name. If the child has one, he/she probably has been targeted already, since only an application for credit starts a report.

What can you do?

As of June 25th 2011, new SSN’s will be more randomized – which will make this more difficult for identity thieves – but if your child already has one, their number may already have been compromised

  • If you’ve seen any of the signs, it may be a good idea to run a credit check. Note – you cannot use standard free credit check reporting systems to run a check on a child…however, TransUnion has a great site that can help guide you through the process
  • If you see signs that your child’s identity has been stolen, immediately put a freeze on your child’s credit. (State by state information on this can be found here)
  • The Identity Theft Resource Center, for free, will assist parents in disputing all erroneous entries on credit reports. The agency will also help parents address the possibility that an imposter is using their child’s identity to obtain a driver’s license or escape conviction records or child support payments.
  • Finally, if you suspect your child’s identity has been stolen, call the police and the Federal Trade Commission which oversees and polices this type of activity. An FTC guide to disputing errors can be found here.

Keeping our eyes open today, will hopefully prevent heartache down the line.


Reference Material

About the Author

Stefanie Zucker is President and co-founder of Pediatric Medical and Managing Director and co-founder of Axios Partners, a strategy consulting firm. After a number of years spent researching the safety issues associated with transporting children on ambulances she became a child health safety advocate and formed Pediatric Safety with a goal of creating a world-wide movement of parents and caregivers inspired to protect the health and safety of kids. Stefanie is a member of the PedSafe Team


5 Responses to “Your Child’s Identity May Have Already Been Stolen”

  1. Okay. This is absolutely petrifying. I don’t even know my kids SS#’s. *shudder*

    • Stefanie Zucker sazucker says:

      Unbelievable isn’t it! I’ve been telling everyone I know to start keeping an eye out on those “offers” that come in the mail. Yikes!!!

  2. The Padrino says:

    Are you kin to Mark Zuckerberg lol just kidding. This is some scary stuff for sure.

    • Christine says:

      I have to say thank you. A while back I saw the story on the Today show and last week I received a triple A offer for my 14 year old daughter in the mail. So I kept I was going to call them the day it came however they don’t have numbers easy to find in the mailing. So I put in on my desk as I was clear it yesterday I came across it and this morning I am looking at her history thanks to your help. I hope there is nothing there. At least if there is we can fix it before she is an adult.

      • Stefanie Zucker sazucker says:

        You’re most welcome! I know it scared the heck out of me when I first saw it… (unbelievable how people prey on kids). I’m glad it was helpful for you…and thanks very much for letting me know!

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