Has your child received pre-approved credit card offers in the mail? Has a collection agency called you asking for payment on an account they opened? Or have you been offered guaranteed low interest rates on loans? If so, don't ignore those letters: Your child may be the victim of identity theft.
Experian's recent Child Identity Theft Aftermath Survey found the average child identity theft victim is 12 years old when their identity is stolen.
The majority of child victims believe their identity was first stolen when they were over the age of 10, and nearly half say it occurred between the ages of 15 and 17. Experian surveyed over 500 adults who were victims of identity theft as a child, and over 230 parents whose children had their information stolen.
While child identity theft is still not as common as other types of ID theft, it is very lucrative for thieves because there is typically no credit history established for the children who become victims. Once scammers get a hold of a child's Social Security number or other personal information, they can open new bank or credit card accounts, take out loans, and apply for government benefits.
To raise awareness of child identity theft and the corrosive impact it can have on families,Experian has designated Sept. 1 to be "Child Identity Theft Awareness Day." The publisher of this blog also has a family identity protection plan to help parents monitor their children's personal information and protect against fraud. The first step is to know how to protect your child from identity theft and understand where identity thieves are looking for personal data.
How Is Child Identity Theft Discovered?
More than 1 million children were the victim of identity fraud in 2017, resulting in losses of $2.6 billion and more than $540 million in out-of-pocket costs to the families, according to Javelin Strategy & Research.
According to Experian's survey, over half of victims discover the theft themselves, and many are 18 years or older by that time. Discovery of fraud primarily occurs when child identity theft victims apply for credit as an adult, or when they receive an unexpected bill or credit card in the mail.
Who Is Responsible for Child Identity Theft?
One of the unfortunate realities of child identity theft is that 37% of victims never found out who responsible for the crime. But 33% of the time, victims discover that they know the perpetrator, and in those cases, a parent or other family member is typically responsible.
Additionally, 2 out of 3 child identity theft cases result in the victim's Social Security number, name or date of birth being compromised.
Of the responses from victims or their parents, 70% said they most often report the identity theft to the credit issuers or collection agencies who mistakenly billed them. While 62% said they reported the identity theft to local law enforcement. Still many cases of child identity theft go unreported, as less than half said they filed a police report during the resolution process to actual law enforcement.
How Long Does Recovery from Child Identity Theft Take?
The time it takes to resolve identity theft is considered to be the worst part of it all, according to 82% of respondents in our survey.
The resolution process can drag out for years and 25% of victims are still dealing with issues over 10 after the fraud first occurred. Of those victims, 81%, still remain worried today about their ability to obtain credit in the future and 82% agree they are concerned this could happen to them or another family member again in the future.
How to Protect Yourself from Child Identity Theft
Looking back, 63% of victims wish their parents had done things differently to protect them, but they also believe parents are not informed enough to do a good job of protecting children today. Make sure you understand how to check your credit report for ID theft and be on guard against all types of identity theft that can occur.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer or other company, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. All information, including rates and fees, are accurate as of the date of publication.
This article was originally published on August 26, 2018, and has been updated.