Photoprivy Blog · Privacy

Children Are 51 Times More Likely to be Victims of Identity Theft

66% of Child Victims of Identity Theft Are Between the Age of 0-7

James Fawks

Since starting Photprivy, I have become more aware of the role online privacy plays for our children. While I had a good understanding of online privacy when I started Photoprivy, I'm continuing to learn more and the role as a parent I have in protecting my son's privacy both online and offline. It wasn't until a recent conversation with a good friend of mine that led me to start looking into how the lack of online privacy contributes to children being victims of identity fraud.

How big of a problem is child identity fraud?

A study by Javelin Strategy & Research found that more than one million identities of children were stolen in 2017. Child identity theft resulted in over $2.6 billion in losses, with families having to pay collectively more than $540 million out of pocket to recover their children's identity. The study also found that children ages 0-7 years old were at higher risk than older children, making up 66% of children with stolen identities.

A study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University, CyLab Security and Privacy Institute found that children were 51 times more likely to be a victim of identity fraud than adults.

So why are children being targeted so much?

What makes them so attractive to identity thieves?

I was shocked at how simple the answer is and how easily I overlooked the issue.

Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center describes it perfectly:

A child's Social Security number is so valuable to criminals because it's essentially a clean slate. And because kids aren't interacting in the adult world and aren't paying attention to things like their credit report and their credit score, these can go undetected for a much longer time.

Thieves don't even need to steal your child's identity completely. They need enough information to create a false identity that will allow them to open as many credit lines as they can no longer do so. In other words, they create a synthetic identity using your child's information.

What is synthetic identity theft/fraud?

LifeLock defines synthetic identity theft as follows:

Synthetic identity theft, or synthetic identity fraud, occurs when a criminal creates an identity instead of stealing an existing one. The scam involves mixing real Social Security numbers, or fake numbers, with other pieces of information—names, addresses, and birthdates—to create an entirely new identity, often using partially fake identity information. In contrast, the more familiar form of identity theft involves using the actual name, Social Security number, and other personal data of a single victim.

Unfortunately, parents can be the worst enemy and provide more information to thieves than we intend to do so on social media platforms. According to IdentityIq, parents unintentionally reveal the child's name, age, and gender starting as early as when they are born by oversharing their proud moments. Think about the number of sonograms you have seen posted, the number of birthdays that say something like "Jane's 5th birthday", or signs in the yard that state the child's name and how old they turn. If these posts are public, all a thief has to do is scroll through the social media's search engine to find any information they can exploit.

What are the signs that a child's identity has been stolen?

Some of the warning signs that your child's identity has been stolen according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are:

  • be turned down for government benefits because the benefits are being paid to another account using your child's Social Security number
  • get a notice from the IRS saying the child didn't pay income taxes or that the child's Social Security number was used on another tax return
  • get collection calls or bills for products or services you didn't receive

In other words, if you get any calls, emails, knocks at your door regarding your child, no matter how silly it may seem to you now, take it seriously and do some investigation. Ensure your child has not been a victim of identity theft and see if you can stop it before it gets too bad.

If you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of your child's identity has been stolen, contact the FTC immediately by going to http://www.identitytheft.gov/ or calling 877-ID-THEFT. They will be able to assist you in creating a recovery plan and help with the next steps.

How to prevent your child's identity from being stolen?

Just like you should be doing for yourself, you should protect all sensitive information as much as possible. Some things you can do are:

  • Put any sensitive documents in a safe place
  • Limit the number of places or organizations your child's Social Security Number is exposed
  • If an organization asks for your child's social security number, ask why they need it or if it's needed and how they are protecting your child's documents
  • Shred any documents that are no longer needed with your child's information on it
  • Signup for services that monitor your child's credit, so you get alerted to any activity
  • Freeze the child's credit

Thanks to the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), parents with school-aged can opt-out of sharing contact or other directory information with third parties or other parents. FERPA also requires schools to protect the privacy of children's school records. You can review the latest on FERPA and student privacy at https://studentprivacy.ed.gov/.

The FTC also recommends that you run the child's credit report when they are close to their 16th birthday. This way, if you find out that the child has a credit history and had their identity stolen, you have time to fix it before the child applies for anything that needs a clean credit history, such as a job, apartment, or student loan, to name a few.

My thoughts

I'm dumbfounded that I didn't think about my son being a victim of identity fraud at such an early age. Like most parents, I thought of that as an adult crime. I'm thankful I had that conversation with my friend, who led me down this path and researched the issue. Otherwise, I would not have taken steps to protect his identity, so identity fraud does not impede his future.


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