Experian estimates that 25% of children will become victims of identity theft before adulthood. This year, parents can take advantage of a new law to check your children’s credit history and protect them from identity theft that can throw their lives into chaos.
Children represent one of the fastest growing groups of people victimized by identity theft and the numbers are probably worse than they look because the crime often goes undetected for years. An adult might notice his credit has been tarnished when he applies for a cell phone or credit card. When will your child do something like that? In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Suzanne Barber, director of the Center for Identity at the University of Texas at Austin is quoted as saying, “If I were going to patchwork an identity, whose would I want to use? I’d probably use the identity that is checked least often.”
Criminals know that most children have no credit history but a blank slate is better than a bad one and it’s unfortunately very easy to start small and establish a small, positive history with one account paid on time for a few months. Then it’s off the to races for criminals who leverage that unmonitored identity and good credit record to defraud others using your child’s identity. According to Javelin Research, a child’s identity is worth about five times what an adult’s is and the average fraud committed using a child’s identity is on average $2,300 or about twice as much as when using an adult’s identity.
Its not just the long time to discovery that can make it hard to clean up the damage but also the lack of an established positive history that as used as a reference. When MyProfyle works on behalf of a member whose identity has been stolen we can direct debt collectors, defrauded creditors and the credit bureaus themselves to the member’s positive history. For example, we can show that our member has lived in Phoenix, Arizona for 15 years and pays their bills on time. The two credit cards and one cell phone account opened up with the Tennessee address the member has never lived at stand out as obvious fraud given this history. With a child who has no track record, this argument is more challenging.
Another problem is that criminals increasingly fabricate new identities by using your child’s name and social security number with another date of birth and address, for example. This is called synthetic identity fraud because there is no single individual identity being misused but that can actually make it more, not less damaging to your child. The bad debts may be assigned based on social security number but then you may have difficulty persuading the credit bureaus that you represent the victim because your records show a different date of birth or address. This mismatch of records creates a real mess that many people cannot resolve without assistance. Meanwhile, the damage continues.
MyProfyle recommends that once this new law goes into effect on September 21, 2018 to contact the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian and Equifax) and check to see if your children have credit records – they should not. The FTC has a new page on IdentityTheft.gov explaining how to establish a credit file for your children and then freeze it to make it more difficult for children to misuse their identities. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also has helpful information.
At MyProfyle, we believe this threat is further proof that everyone’s information is at risk from many different sources and that we are all exposed multiple times per year. The solution to identity fraud is not to try to lock your identity or seek unobtainable privacy but to control your identity – not just your credit – by putting yourself in the position know of, approve or decline activity conducted in your name. That’s MyProfyle Free For Life ™ Identity Protection.