Why Child Identity Theft is Dangerous

Identity theft in the form of new account fraud can happen to anyone with a Social Security number, which includes virtually any American with a pulse…as well as some who no longer do. Identity theft can even happen to your newborn baby shortly after a Social Security number has been issued to him or her and this could have long term implications for your child.

Within days of your child’s birth, you typically sign documentation prior to being released from the hospital, and a Social Security number is issued within a few weeks. That number is promptly distributed to many entities: the U.S. Social Security Administration, the hospital, your doctors’ offices, your insurance company, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)—and anyone who has access to the relevant documents or files can also gain access to a person’s identity.

There is a growing trend among identity thieves to steal the identities of children, especially infants because it is unlikely that your child or you as parent, will be checking their credit report, since they are too young to talk let alone have a credit card. Child identity theft occurs when the identity of someone under the age of 18 is compromised. When this occurs, the child’s Social Security number is used to open up new accounts. The new accounts opened could be anything from credit cards to bank loans to automobile loans.

Your child’s records represent a clean slate for the criminal and it usually takes years before the theft is discovered. Often, the first time victims discover that their identity was stolen is when they engage in their first financial transaction and try to establish credit by, for example, purchasing a cell phone or buying a car.

There have been far too many instances of parents receiving a call from a bill collector informing you that your two-year-old bought a Mercedes and defaulted on a loan. Or perhaps law enforcement may come knocking on your door to inquire about crimes committed by your newborn child. So besides damaged credit, you child could have income tax liability or a criminal record as the result of identity theft.

The best protection against child identity theft is comprehensive device security, like McAfee LiveSafe™ service, along with filing a fraud alert with the credit bureaus every quarter with the hope that you are denied, because a credit report doesn’t exist—means your child’s identity is still safe. As parents we need to be vigilant about protecting our own and our kids’ information.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked!  Disclosures.