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Children are a growing target for identity theft

Apr 14, 2014 Walt Wojciechowski

Parents and businesses may be startled to learn that children are a growing target for identity theft. Companies should take steps to protect even their youngest customers from fraud that may ruin their consumer credit reports.

Staggering numbers


Children are particularly valuable to identity thieves because it is easy to leverage children's Social Security numbers, as they most likely haven't yet been used for anything like loans or credit cards. According to AllClearID's 2012 Child Identity Theft Report, 10.7 percent of children had their Social Security number stolen and used by someone else. This was 35 times the amount of identity theft found in adult populations. The thieves then tend to use the information to open credit cards and take out loans, often doing considerable damage to the child's consumer credit report.

AllClearID also stated children are particularly at risk since the parents are unlikely to monitor their identity. With both parent and child unaware of the activities that are occurring, the cases of fraud can go on for several years. There are several large motivating factors that contribute to stealing a young person's identity: to obtain employment IDs, to commit financial fraud and to bypass poor credit ratings.

Consequences
The repercussions of identity theft for children is very similar to adults, and since the fraud often goes on for longer periods of time, the fallout can be even more severe. For instance, when the victim is older and decides to take out loans for college or a new car, they may find their credit has been incurring increasing amounts of damage for years before anyone noticed. This can ruin their credit for a long time and make it difficult to take out loans.

ABC News's Gerri Detweiler reported that if signs of identity theft pop up, parents should take notice- whether it's being denied a first credit card or license or receiving phone calls from debt collectors.

Protecting young people
Parents and business should take steps to protect children's personal information. The Federal Trade Commission has stated that parents should regularly check their child's identity data to make sure it has no strange activity connected to it.

According to Identity Theft Protection Association, firms can fight ID theft in several ways. Leaders should educate staff on how to avoid phishing and spear phishing scams, and the importance of keeping client information secure, among other tips. Data encryption is a good additional measure to take, as well as keeping updated software security. Staff should also be on alert for suspicious activity, and take steps to verify clients' identities. Both prevention and recovery methods should be used to protect consumer credit data.