Why identity thieves want your child's social security number
An estimated 10-16M Americans are victims of identity related crime each year. One of the most deplorable and difficult to detect is identify theft of a child. Experts estimate 1 in 4 children will have their identity stolen before they become an adult.
Why? It’s called “runway.” A child’s Social Security number is pristine. They have no reason to use it in connection with any financial account until turning 18. A pristine Social Security number creates opportunity for a skilled thief to build up massive credit and pocket loads of cash over many years without detection. Thieves can open bank accounts, set up credit cards, draw personal loans, student loans, auto loans and even mortgages. They can rent apartments, lease smartphones, acquire utilities, cable, internet, medical treatments and prescriptions. They can even draw tax refunds, welfare checks, and unemployment benefits.
When discovered, victims realize there is no simple way out. In fact, in our system they are considered guilty until proven innocent, which can take a very long time to sort out.
Victims often find themselves unable to get a loan, find someone to rent them an apartment, get a utility or cellphone turned on, or open their mailbox without receiving some letter referencing a creditor they’ve never heard of. They may find it difficult to get a job, and they can even be arrested for crimes committed by their identity thief.
Early Warning Signs
Parents will generally be the first ones to receive a signal that there might be a problem, but usually won’t connect the dots until it is far too late. Some common warning signs are:
- Receiving a pre-approved credit card offer in the child’s name
- Getting a rejected federal or state tax return due to a previous filing or another filing with the child’s social security number attached to it
- Receiving an unexplained call from a debt collector asking for the child
If you come across an event like this, make sure you raise an antenna and investigate. Chances are it's not their mistake. Don't let ignorance be yours!
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