News & Resources

Report finds incidents of child ID theft growing

Apr 06, 2011 Brian Bradley

While a recent study found the number of identity fraud victims declined in 2010, a separate report from the Carnegie Mellon CyLab suggests that cases of child ID theft are a growing concern. The non-scientific report - based on ID protection scans on 42,232 children - found that 10.2 percent of child victims had someone else using their Social Security numbers, a rate 51 times higher than adults in the same population. The children's identities were used to buy homes and cars, open credit card accounts, obtain driver's licenses and get jobs, the report found. More than 300 of the victims were under the 5 years of age; the youngest was 5 months old. It's possible for one Social Security number to appear on more than one criminal history, credit file or employment report, and many entities don't treat the numbers as unique identifiers, the report found. Minors' Social Security numbers are valuable because there is no process for an employer or creditor who is conducting a background check or pre-employment screening to verify that the name and birthday a fraudster provides are the ones officially attached to the number. Therefore, ID thieves who have access to a number with a "clean history" can attach any name or birth date they want, the report found. According to research from Javelin, the cost to consumers who are victims of ID fraud rose last year to $631 per incident. New account fraud, which is harder for victims to detect, was the most damaging. "This is an existential threat to our society," Richard Power, the study's author, told MSNBC. "The elephant in the room is that obviously we are not properly authenticating people at all." The report underscores the need for employers and landlords to conduct thorough checks before approving a new hire, signing a lease or granting credit. Businesses with consumer-facing web applications are starting to outsource their user identification and authentication needs, according to research from Forrester. The U.S. federal government has also committed to promoting the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace and other solutions for extra space preserving ID assurance in federated interactions, the report says. Within the next three years, ID assurance resources will combine Web 2.0 and Government 2.0 identity innovations, the report predicts.