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Study: Child identity theft on the rise

May 09, 2012 Walt Wojciechowski

When a debt collection agent calls a household, adults would most likely think the attempt to recover is for a payment they missed. However, it is becoming more frequent for a collector be trying to contact a child whose identity was stolen, looking for overdue payments on fraudulent purchases made by a criminal. The recently published 2012 Child Identity Theft Report released by AllClear ID found that children are now being targeted by individuals looking to make fraudulent purchases on a more frequent scale that adults. Criminals attempt to steal a child's ID 35 times more often than they do an adult's. In the past year, the amount of identity theft victims under 5 years old increased by 105 percent. The most common age for a child to experience identity theft is between six and ten years old, representing 26 percent of victims. The report said that the rate of identity theft for children over 11, however, has either decreased or remained stagnant. Nearly 11 percent of American children have had their Social Security numbers used by an unauthorized individual. The largest amount ever taken out in a child's name was $1.5 million. According to the AllClear ID study, a 19-year-old discovered her Social Security number had been used by a criminal for 10 years to commit fraud. The report suggested crimes against children largely go undetected until they are contacted with debt collectors or apply for a loan when older because kids rarely use their Social Security numbers for credit. The AllClear ID findings indicated that even if parents check their children's consumer credit reports for inconsistencies, 99 percent of identity theft situations could go undiscovered because criminals often use a Social Security number with a fake name and birthdate. It may be proactive for parents to explore their options with one of the three main credit reporting bureaus. A question and answer section on the Experian website explained children should not have a credit report linked with their name and Social Security number, because reports aren't made until they have a credit history. If the child in question has a credit report because their identity was stolen, the source reported, parents may then consider taking steps to freeze the account and file a victim statement. Not all states, however, allow freezing of reports, so consumers should consult professionals to explore their options.