8. September 2010 09:38
They say kids are growing up so fast these days. I think this is said about every generation but in today’s world toddlers and tweens are being issued credit cards, purchasing new cars and houseboats. That’s a lot of financial responsibility for such young ages.
The reality is children’s identities are being stolen at an increasing rate. The Federal Trade Commission reports that 400,000 children have their identity stolen each year. Victims under the age of 18 are prime targets because they may not know for years. Thieves can use online resources and publicly available information to search for Social Security Numbers not being used to obtain credit. Once they confirm the number is “available” they sell the information to people who want a clean credit record. Other common sources for these numbers are longtime inmates and the homeless. This business practice can fall into a gray area and be difficult to prosecute. Sellers can get around the law by not referring to the number as a Social Security Number and calling it a “CPN”- for credit profile, credit protection and credit privacy numbers.
There are warning signs that parents should look for:
- Credit card applications
- Debt collection calls or letters
- Medical procedures they did not receive
Parents can take steps to protect their children’s information. Start with these:
- Never carry your child’s Social Security card in your wallet or purse.
- Check www.annualcreditreport.com to see if a report exists under your child’s Social Security Number.
- Put a block on your child’s credit so other people can’t use their number or name to easily obtain credit.
- When you are asked for personal information such a Social Security Number or a copy of a birth certificate, ask why they need it and how will they protect that information.
- Teach your children to safeguard their information and ask questions.
- Provide guidelines on what they can share on social networking websites and use the privacy settings.
- If you suspect your child has been a victim of identity theft, file a police report.
Social Security Numbers were originally intended for establishing a credit record. Until an alternative option is implemented, being on guard will give your children a head start.
Sources: KIRO TV, Freep.com, Chicago Tribune