Fact Checked

ID theft isn’t just an adult problem — kids could be targets, too

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You may not have heard much about child ID fraud, but it’s becoming a real problem. Parents should be aware of the risk.

According to a new study from Javelin Strategy & Research, more than 1 million kids were victims of ID theft in 2017. The losses due to child identity fraud totaled a whopping $2.6 billion last year, with two-thirds of the victims under the age of 8.

Javelin, a research-based advisory firm, gathered this information from an online survey of 5,000 people who were living with a dependent minor or had lived with a dependent minor within the previous six years.

Perhaps most alarming is that more than half of the minors (60%) knew the perpetrator. In contrast, only 7% of adult victims of identity fraud know the person who is stealing from them.

While the study found that the most-common culprits were “family friends,” parents and stepparents were also found to have committed the fraud. Close relatives, such as siblings, cousins or uncles, were also offenders.

What does this mean for you?

If you have a child whose identity may have been compromised, it could mean a big headache — for you now and potentially for your child later on down the line. Child ID theft can take years to detect, and it can be a nightmare to fix if not caught early.

“Out of sight, out of mind” does not apply here. If you suspect your child is the victim of ID theft, it’s important to act quickly to uncover and resolve the fraud. Not only can it potentially damage their financial future, but it can cost you money now.

Of the $2.6 billion in losses revealed in the Javelin study, families paid $540 million out of their own pockets as a result of child ID theft.

Why should you care?

ID theft is often thought of as an “adult” problem, but kids need protection, too.

This is especially true in today’s hyperconnected world, in which kids have more opportunities to share information they may not know is sensitive. As the Javelin study notes, kids, particularly those vulnerable to bullying, may be especially susceptible to fraud by oversharing personal information online.

Whether it’s a close family friend or an online fraudster who steals the information, the consequences can be devastating.

Even though a child might be a decade or so away from applying for their first credit card or loan, ID fraud could cripple their ability to buy a car or a home once they come of age.

What can you do?

ID theft can be scary when you’re the victim, and maybe even more so when it’s your child who becomes the target.

Fortunately, you can take action to reduce risk for you and your child when it comes to ID theft. Here are some recommendations for getting ahead of potential identity thieves.

  • Monitor your child’s bank account and credit reports. Consider freezing their reports until they’re old enough to apply for credit and take some of the other steps recommended when it comes to reducing your own risk of identity theft.
  • Report any suspicious activity immediately. It can be tricky emotional terrain if the perpetrator is a close relative or new romantic partner, but it’s generally best to report any inaccuracies in your child’s credit reports right away (and file a police report if necessary).
  • Protect your child’s personally identifiable information. This can mean physically locking away sensitive documents like a birth certificate or Social Security card.
  • Have a conversation. Teach your child from a very early age about the importance of protecting their identity in the digital world. Establishing these habits early may help them later in life.

About the author: Greg Hernandez is a writer-editor for the Los Angeles LGBT Center and an editor of his own pop culture blog, Greg in Hollywood. He was previously a staff writer for the business sections of the Los Angeles Daily News … Read more.