Buffalo, N.Y. (WKBW release) -- Identity thieves are combing the Internet to find inactive Social Security numbers online, most assigned to children.
Thieves then sell these numbers under different names to establish fake credit and rack up debt. The Better Business Bureau is warning parents about this threat and to be on the lookout for the signs that their child’s identity could be compromised or stolen.
“Identity theft is a serious problem for adults, but it’s even more frightening that it can affect young adults and even children,” said David Polino, Better Business Bureau President. “Parents may not even know that this could happen so it’s important that they’re aware of it and the precautions they can take to ensure the safety of their child’s, and consequently their own, identity and credit.”
Last year, 8.1 million American adults became victims of ID theft, with losses totaling $37 billion, according to a report from Javelin Strategy and Research. It becomes harder to define how many children are actually affected by identity theft because of the fact that most cases go undiscovered for years. While information on child ID theft is scarce, Debix, an ID theft monitoring company, checked records for 40,000 children and found that 4,000 records had been tainted.
BBB urges parents to follow these important steps to secure their child’s identity:
Find Out How to Check Your Child’s Credit Report
Many reports for children under 13 are not available from the free credit report website, http://annualcreditreport.com. The easiest way for parents to check a report for children under the age of 13 is to ask TransUnion, one of the three credit reporting agencies. If there is no report, then odds are good that your child is in the clear. If there is a report – or if you have other reasons to believe your child has been a victim – you should get reports from the other two bureaus, Experian and Equifax.
Recognize Signs of Trouble
Calls for your children from collection agencies or letters offering them credit cards are common red flags that indicate a child’s identity may have been stolen.
Know What to do if you Suspect That Your Child Has Fallen Victim
Every parent should check their child’s credit report on their 16th birthday. While it’s not a good idea to check it too often, checking at age 16 leaves sufficient time to fix errors and activity before their child goes off to college and tries to obtain financial aid. If suspicious activity arises, parents must contact all three credit bureaus and request a report immediately. From there they should review New York State's credit freeze law to consider placing a credit freeze.