Prevent Child Identity Theft from Safety4YourKids.com

Child Identity Theft Stories

By on March 5, 2012 in Identity Theft

Here’s a nicely written article published by the New York Times in July 2007 about child identity theft.  Thieves like to target children because their  credit files are never checked.  As parents, we think it’s not important. Even before identity theft became so prominent in the 21st century, identity thieves started targeting children. Now that security breaches are so common and hackers can find personal information through phishing, your child’s identity is even easier to steal than ever before.

Here’s the story:

Never Too Young to Have Your Identity Stolen

By BARBARA WHITAKER

New York Times, July 21, 2007

For almost half of his life, Gabriel Jimenez, 25, has been sharing his identity with another person.

His mother, Jeri Marks, first discovered the problem when he was 11, after filing taxes for work he did as a child model. Someone had already filed taxes, she was told by the Internal Revenue Service. Although she notified the police, the I.R.S. and the Social Security Administration, the problem continued, she recalled in an interview.

After a few years, she requested her son’s file with the Internal Revenue Service and found an illegal immigrant who was working using the number.

“He said he would give me his refund if I let him continue to use the number,” said Ms. Marks, who lives in Chicago, adding that she asked him to stop using it.

But the problem did not stop there and as Gabriel reached adulthood, his problems have only become worse.

Child identity theft is a growing problem in the United States. People may not even realize they’ve been a victim until they’re adults and they try to get credit.

Children’s identities are used in much the same way as those stolen from adults, as a basis for credit cards, bank accounts, utility service, insurance, even employment. In some instances, the culprit may live the life of a model citizen working, paying bills on time and providing few red flags to indicate that there is a problem. In others cases, they may run up tens of thousands of dollars in bills, work and fail to pay taxes or develop a criminal history — with none of that becoming apparent to the victims until they are young adults.

“Protect your child’s information as carefully as you protect your own,” said Linda Foley, who founded the Identity Theft Resource Center in San Diego. “Jealously guard Social Security numbers and only give them out when vitally necessary.”

In a world where Social Security numbers are typically applied for at birth and the Internet has opened the door to an array of new scams, the task may seem daunting. But privacy experts say taking a few simple steps can help to protect a child’s identity. First, when filling out forms where a Social Security number is requested, question whether it is really necessary. Certainly, it is needed for tax purposes and will most likely be requested by financial institutions. But is it really needed by schools, sports organizations or other community groups?

Mark Lassiter, a spokesman for the Social Security Administration, said there were very few situations that would require the numbers to be provided. Typically, he said, they are needed for filing for government benefits.

Ms. Foley added: “The question a parent should be asking anyone who requests a Social Security number for a child is, Why do you need it and what happens if I don’t give it to you? You’ll find surprisingly 50 percent of the time they don’t need it.” Specialists suggest that parents should also shred any old documents with Social Security numbers, not carry actual Social Security cards with them and do not use the card for routine identification.

The Identity Theft Resource Center (idtheftcenter.org) explains the various types of identity theft and what victims should do when their identity is stolen. In addition, the center created a Web-based educational program last October to teach teenagers about identity theft and how they could make themselves less vulnerable. The site warns teenagers about putting information on blogs and social networking sites and provides details on reading a credit report and what they should do if they discover they are a victim.

Detecting the problem can be difficult, though. While adults may check their credit history regularly, there would seem little reason for a child to do so. Frank Blackwood, a father of two in Houston, checked to see if his young daughters had credit histories after seeing a television program about criminals stealing the Social Security numbers of infants.

“I called a credit bureau and gave them both of my daughters’ Social Security numbers,” Mr. Blackwood said, noting that one was about 6 months old at the time and the other 2. “The lady pulled them up and there was a long silence followed by the words ‘Uh-oh.'” Mr. Blackwood said he unsuccessfully tried to get a copy of the girls’ credit reports. Trans Union, a credit reporting bureau, said that according to its records no credit histories exist and they notified the family of that at the time while also taking steps to protect their credit until the age of 18.

Parents should look for clues of identity theft in the mail. If all of a sudden a child starts receiving unsolicited offers of credit and they’re 6, think twice.If such warnings occur, she said, the parent should apply for the child’s credit report (this step also means proving that you are the parent) and, if the report exists, put a fraud alert on it immediately.

But as Ms. Marks and Mr. Jimenez have discovered, even when the identity theft is revealed, it can be nearly impossible to bring to an end. Over the years they worked with the I.R.S. and Social Security with only intermittent success. Mr. Jimenez, who manages a sales team at CareerBuilder, continues to try to clear his name.

After he moved from his home to attend college at Northwestern University, Mr. Jimenez was denied phone service, gas and electricity because, he was told, he already had accounts. At 20, he went to set up a bank account only to be denied because someone opened up an I.R.A. using his information. He tried to obtain auto insurance only to find someone was trading on his information there, too.

Soon, issues began developing with his credit report.

In recent years, he has gotten most of the erroneous information cleared from his credit history. Still, he can rent only apartments with utilities included in the rent, and his credit rating is ruined. “It seems the only one being affected by this is me,” he said.

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