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ITRC Fact Sheet 120
Identity Theft and Children

This guide will cover a number of topics:

Child identity theft occurs when a child’s identity is used by another person for the imposter’s personal gain. The perpetrator may be a family member or someone known by the family. It could also be a stranger who purposely targets children because of the often lengthy time between the fraudulent use of the child’s information and the discovery of the crime.

There are some cases that appear to be identity theft but are not. Receiving a pre-approved credit card offer in your child’s name might upset you as a parent. However, it might only be an innocent marketing tool sent by an affiliate of your bank because you opened a college fund for your child. (Please refer to ITRC Fact Sheet FS 120B  – A Guide for Parents – Child Identity Theft Indicators.) A quick check of credit reports will help you sort out the truth. Currently, all three reporting agencies use automated systems for ordering credit reports. You should contact them directly and request a credit report for your child. If you are told that there is no credit report, that is good news. The reality is that a credit report should not exist until that child’s first credit application as an adult.

In some of the topic areas, we will be dividing the discussion by victim types. They are:

ABOUT THIS CRIME:

Financial identity theft occurs when the Social Security Number (SSN) and other personally identifying information (PII) is used to establish new lines of credit.

What most people do not understand is that credit issuers do not always verify the age of the applicant. The information on the application is typically taken at face value. Few credit issuers request sufficient proof of identity. This is a fault within our system that needs to be rectified.

A second misconception is that the credit reporting agencies (CRAs) will know that an application is fraudulent because the applicant is a minor. The age of the applicant for a credit reporting agency becomes “official” with the first credit application. For example, if the first application indicates that the applicant is 24, the credit agencies will believe that person is 24 until a dispute is filed and proven.

Criminal identity theft occurs when a person steals the information of the minor to get a driver’s license or uses the child’s identity when caught in a criminal act. This person may be an undocumented worker who bought the information or a relative who has had a license suspended or revoked.

MOMENT OF DISCOVERY:

Parents or relatives of child/victims are usually the first to notice something is not quite right. Some of these cases involve split families (one of the parents is the perpetrator, and the crime is exposed by the other, unoffending parent). Discovery of child identity theft often comes:

Adult/Child Victims typically find out in the same manner as adult victims of identity theft, when they:

POTENTIAL IMPACT:

Below are some examples to provide more insight into different ways child identity theft occur.

Situation One: Adult/Child Victim
In this case, the perpetrator may be a relative or a stranger. The 18-year-old student doesn’t find out until he or she eventually applies for a college loan, a driver’s license, an apartment, a job or credit. It may be 10 –15 years from the time the information is stolen until the crime is discovered. By that point, the crime trail is cold and damage to the child’s credit record can be great. The original fraudulent accounts opened may have gone through several hands with company mergers and sell-outs. This makes it difficult to track down original application and transaction records. The criminal may have used the information until the credit history is destroyed and he or she can no longer get credit using that identity. The adult/child has not checked his or her credit report because they assumed one would not exist.

Situation Two: Child Victim
The parent finds out about the problem and is faced with the tedious task of proving that his or her child did not open the accounts. They often have to prove that the child is a minor and indeed their dependent. They are placed in the position of being the primary investigator and have the ultimate responsibility of restoring their child’s identity.

Situation Three: Parental Identity Theft and the Child Victim
In this case, the parent may have destroyed his or her own credit or driving record or has a criminal record. Instead of repairing or living with the damage done to their own records, this parent begins to use the identity of their child in order to attain credit, a driver’s license or employment.

RECORD CLEARANCE AND “DO YOU NEED AN ATTORNEY?”

Child Victims: Parents will have to act on their behalf

Do you need an attorney?
That depends on the offender or person who is using the information. If the offender is a parent or relative, or if this is a case that could be tied into a custody or divorce issue, it may be necessary to involve a family law attorney. This is especially true in joint custody cases. If you have joint custody of the child, timing is critical. If you fear that the offending parent might run off with the child, seek the advice of your attorney as to timing, legal actions that might assist you in protecting the safety of the child, or the need to involve child protective services.

Adult/child Victims:

Do you need an attorney?
Each case is unique and the situation will dictate the need for an attorney. However, in many cases an attorney is not able to do anything you cannot do for yourself. There are always exceptions to this rule, so please feel free to contact us with any of your questions at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or toll-free at 888-400-5530.

SHOULD THE SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER BE CHANGED?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has very strict standards about granting a new Social Security Number. We recommend that you read our ITRC Fact Sheet FS 113  - Should I Change My Social Security Number, in which many of the specifics are detailed. Please contact ITRC if you decide to proceed. Contact the SSA by calling (800) 772-1213 or by going on line: www.ssa.gov. Click on the following link for the SSA Electronic leaflet: Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number.

In most circumstances, ITRC does not recommend that victims should apply for a new Social Security Number. However, some child identity theft victims can benefit from such an action.

EMOTIONAL IMPACT

Please read ITRC Fact Sheet FS 108  – Overcoming the Emotional Impact and ITRC Fact Sheet FS 115  - When You Personally Know the Identity Thief. These might assist you in understanding what the different emotions experienced by many victims.

Child Victims:

Stranger Theft: This crime can affect the way that your child sees the world. It is up to you to help him or her understand that criminals exist in this world, but that they don’t have to control the way we live our lives.

Family Identity Theft: Now is not the time or the way to get back at your ex-spouse. Your child will have a difficult enough time with this emotionally. Don’t add to his or her burden. You may want to seek therapy, especially in cases of child identity theft done by the other parent or a relative. This can affect the child’s ability to trust or develop lasting relationships. Even adults struggle with this issue.

Finally, find resources to help you. Consider a good children’s therapist who works with crime victims. (See the list at the end of this fact sheet for suggestions.)

Adult/Child Victims:

RESOURCES

Victim assistance professionals have long recognized the value of support groups and counseling for victims of crime. Both you and your child (in the case of child victims) are victims of crime, whether your police department recognizes it as such or not. In some cases, you can seek restitution for the services of a professional therapist should your case go to court.

The following is a partial resource list for those who may not be financially able to afford a private therapist themselves or who may need the name of a good therapy program. We also recommend you look in the front of your local phonebook under: Crisis Intervention; Psychologists; Marriage and Family Counseling; Clinical Social Workers; and Mental Health Professionals/Clinics.

 

This fact sheet should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Any requests to reproduce this material, other than by individual victims for their own use, should be directed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..