Child identity theft caused families to pay $540 million in damages last year.

It’s easy to ditch those pre-approval credit card offers as soon as they come in, but you might want to check the name on them first. Especially if it’s addressed to your child.

An Experian study found that nearly half of 15- to 17-year-olds have had their identities stolen. Babies as young as a few months old have been victims. The average age is 12.

More than 1 million children were the victims of identity fraud last year, causing $2.6 billion in losses. Victims discover the theft themselves, usually when they hit 18 years of age and try to apply for credit. Sometimes they’ll get a bill or credit card in their name, which is another way they found out they were victims.

The theft is happening from inside the house

For 37 percent of respondents, they’ll never know who stole their identities. But one-third of victims know who took their information.

The study found that nearly 73 percent of thieves were parents or other family members. Even for the cases that were simply a mix-up, like a bill addressed to the wrong person, parents didn’t do anything about the mistake. Experian says 62 percent of cases were reported to local law enforcement, which means 38 percent didn’t take any action.

When it comes to what’s being stolen, it’s the most personal information, including:

  • Social Security Number: 82 percent
  • Name: 78 percent
  • Date of birth: 68 percent
  • Street address: 47 percent

Email addresses, medical IDs, and passport information were also compromised.

Will child fraud ever go away?

The worst part about getting your identity stolen is dealing with the repercussions: 82 percent say the recovery from theft is the worst part about the entire process.

One-quarter of victims are still dealing with childhood fraud issues more than a decade after it happened. Of those that are still facing problems, 81 percent are worried about their ability to get credit in the future.

And no one is certain it will ever stop happening: 82 percent of those who were victims of childhood fraud believe they could be victims again or it could happen to another family member.

But there is some hope left. It takes an average of three years for a child identity theft case to end. This isn’t ideal if you’re looking to apply for a credit card or take a mortgage out on a home, but it’s less time than what some others have experienced.

Protection now could last a lifetime

Even as most victims admit their families were the ones causing the harm, there is a lot that parents could’ve done to prepare their kids for identity theft.

Most of the victims wish their parents would’ve educated them on how to prepare for identity theft, including things like:

  • Lock up personal documents, like a Social Security card (58 percent)
  • Shred personal documents (48 percent)
  • Avoid sharing personal information, even with family (47 percent)
  • Open credit earlier or freeze accounts if necessary (25 percent)
  • Be better about online use (23 percent)

Other preparations include limiting social media posts so they wouldn’t post as much personal information, even to family and friends.

Give yourself peace of mind. Protect your children’s data so it doesn’t end up stolen before they apply for their first credit card.

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Meet the Author

Dori Zinn

Dori Zinn

Writer

Zinn is a freelance journalist based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

News, Tech

identity theft

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Article last modified on October 9, 2018 Published by Debt.com, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: Your Teen Is Going to Get Hacked - AMP.