When identity theft hits adults, it can be a long and frustrating battle to restore their good name.
But imagine the confusion that ensues when a young adult tries to get a credit card for the first time only to find out he has several delinquent accounts in his credit file, some dating back to when he was just a toddler.
Identity theft of minors isn’t child’s play. It can mean big money for criminals who, by targeting children, have a blank credit canvas on which to wreak havoc. The thieves steal a child’s personal information — such as a Social Security number — and then proceed to build a credit profile capable of duping lenders for years.
Or, even worse, someone close to the child — a parent, aunt, uncle or family friend — uses the minor’s data to get credit cards, cellphones or utility accounts in the minor’s name. This, too, can go undetected for decades.
Last year, more than 1 million children were victims of identity fraud, according to a new survey by Javelin Strategy & Research. The survey was sponsored by Identity Guard, an identity-theft protection service, and conducted online with 5,000 U.S. parents and guardians.