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May 30, 2011

  • News:  Child Identity Theft 

    Children aren't the victims you expect when talking about identity theft. Typically when the identity of an adult is stolen, the fraud is discovered when the next credit card statement comes but with a child it can be years before it's discovered. Children might not discover the breach until they apply for their first credit card or student loan. The Federal Trade Commission says 8 percent of identity theft complaints last year came from victims 19 and younger, up from the previous year. Parents are cautioned to keep children's personal information safe and teach the child to avoid sharing any identifying details when surfing the Internet as it could lead to fraudulent accounts like credit cards.

    Linda Foley, founder of the Identity Theft Resource Center in San Diego, explains that a child's Social Security number has a long "shelf life" and there is an open market for thieves to sell the number over and over. Unfortunately the culprits can be parents, grandparents and other relatives who have access to a child's information. Foster children are exposed to this type of fraud because their information is passed around and it can fall into the wrong hands. Armed with a Social Security number, the perpetrator can use it to get a job, driver's license and credit, like a home loan or credit cards. They can do a lot of damage before the fraud is caught. One research group cited a case in which eight people are suspected of opening 42 accounts and racking up more than $725,000 in credit card and other debt using a 17-year-old's information.

    Parents are warned to be selective when giving out their children's Social Security and not to carry the card around. If the child is getting credit card offers or if debt collectors are calling it's a strong possibility the child is a victim. Also, the child should not have a credit file. The Federal Trade Commission is planning a workshop on child identity theft in July to raise awareness of the problem and offer suggestions on how to protect young people.

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