Children’s Social Security numbers used in new fraud trend

September 10, 2010 by Matt Ehrlich

Quite a scary new (although in some ways old) form of identity theft in the headlines recently. Here’s a link to the article, which talks about how children’s dormant Social Security numbers are being found and sold by companies online under the guise of CPN’s – aka credit profile numbers or credit protection numbers. Using deceased, “found”, or otherwise illicitly obtained Social Security numbers is not something new. Most identity theft prevention programs consider deceased and non-issued ranges as identity theft red flags under the FACTA Red Flag guidelines. In fact, Experian’s and any good identity verification tool is going to check against the Social Security Administration’s list of numbers listed as deceased as well as ensure the submitted number is in an SSA valid issue range – providing fraud alerts if not. A child’s valid but dormant Social Security number, however, would not flag as either. The two things I find most troubling here are:

One, the sellers have found a way around the law by not calling them Social Security numbers and calling them CPN’s instead. That seems ludicrous! But, in fact, the article goes on to state that “Because the numbers exist in a legal gray area, federal investigators have not figured out a way to prosecute the people involved”.

Two, because of the anonymity and the ability to quickly set up and abandon “shop”, the online marketplace is the perfect venue for both buyer and seller to connect with minimal risk of being caught.

What can we as consumers and businesses take away from this? As consumers, we’re reminded to be ever vigilant about the disclosure of not only OUR Social Security number but that of our family members as well. For businesses, it’s a reminder to take advantage of additional identity verification and fraud prediction tools, such as Experian’s Precise ID, Knowledge IQ, and BizID, when making credit decisions or opening accounts rather than relying solely on consumer credit scores. Knowledge IQ’s knowledge based authentication offers out of wallet questions that may help ensure you’re dealing with the true consumer.