What is Child Identity Theft?
The Federal Trade Commission defines child identity theft as the fraudulent use of personal information belonging to a child under the age of 18. Child identity thieves use their victims’ identities—typically their Social Security numbers—for a number of reasons:
- To open credit cards
- To secure loans, mortgages and business lines of credit
- To lease or buy housing
- To avoid detection for past criminal activities, like when applying for a job or being processed for a new crime
- To live and work in the United States illegally
Why Do They Target Children?
- Years of Opportunity: As adults, we use our identities regularly to apply for things like credit cards, loans and jobs. Children are different. They typically don’t need to use their identities until they reach early adulthood—around 17 or 18. This gives thieves years to use a child’s identity, undetected.
- Lack of Checkpoints: Most children do not have credit histories. And when someone submits an application using a Social Security number (SSN) that has no credit history, it is the standard practice of bureaus and lenders to verify only that the SSN is government-valid, NOT the name and date of birth assigned to it. For this very reason, thieves will often use a child’s SSN with a different name and birthdate—creating a whole new identity and credit history around that SSN.
- Ease of Access: Sadly, parents and guardians with bad credit or criminal records often commit identity theft against their own children.