Yesterday, I ran up on a discussion on social media about child identity theft. What started out as a conversation about parents using their kids’ Social Security numbers to turn back on shut off utilities, conversations turned to some of my friends that had their kids’ Social Security numbers taken and used for years without any knowledge. Good lord, the tales of the messes this kind of identity theft caused, I was really, really surprised.
Today, I did catch an excerpt from a book on this very subject…
So why are children a target for identity thieves? It’s called “runway.” A child’s Social Security number is pristine. There is no reason for a minor to use it in connection with any financial or credit-related transaction before reaching the age of 18–when he or she then becomes legally responsible for any contract they sign. Consequently, there’s been no need for them, or their parents, to check their credit.
A pristine Social Security number in the hands of a skilled identity thief can be a ticket to truckloads of credit and significant cash. It holds the promise of an undisturbed romp for 15 years or more. Just think of all the bank accounts that could be opened; all the credit cards, personal loans, student loans, car loans and mortgages that could be secured; all the apartments that could be rented; all the smartphones, utilities and cable and Internet services that could be obtained; all the medical treatments, prescriptions and devices that could be purchased; all the tax refunds that could be mined; all the illegal jobs that could be obtained; and all the welfare or unemployment benefits that could be had with a gaggle of unblemished, unmonitored Social Security numbers and more than a decade of wide-open road?…
Many have absolutely no idea how it happened, and it takes time to track this down and document everything. And while the situation is being investigated and (maybe) resolved, their credit has been decimated and their ability to participate in the economy is limited. Countless victims can’t get a loan, find someone to rent them an apartment, get a utility or cellphone turned on without a hefty deposit, open their mailbox without receiving some letter referencing a creditor they’ve never heard of, or get and keep a job in an already difficult job market, and they even, on occasion, get arrested for a crime they didn’t commit in a state where they have neither lived nor visited.
Sounds like a nightmare to me. I couldn’t think of an more devastating blow to a young adult wanting to get a higher education or just start out on their own.
In Georgia, child identity theft is a big problem within the state’s foster care program.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Erica Byfield asked state officials why it has taken Georgia’s Department of Family and Child Services nearly four years to implement laws that would help track identity fraud in foster youth, and correct the problem before they become adults.
A former Georgia foster youth, Aaron, said that law may have helped him avoid the credit nightmare he said he is living. Aaron told Byfield utilities, credit cards, even financing for a Chevy Suburban appeared on his credit report when he was in kindergarten.
“I’ve never had a car in my life,” Aaron told Byfield.
He spent 13 years in foster care shuffled between group homes and family; then years on the streets, homeless. Aaron said he has been flooded with credit problems since turning 21, when he realized someone stole his identity.
“I’m 25,” Aaron said. “I’m approaching the age where I want to get a house, get a car, and I’m tired of riding the bus man! But right now I have no choice, because I can’t get those things.”…
Federal leaders wanted tougher regulations, which is why in 2011 the president signed a law to protect foster youth from fraud. It requires credit checks to make sure there are not any inaccuracies. Originally it was for kids 16 and up, but new regulations includes children as young as 14. The federal government gave states time to comply. Our investigation found Georgia rolled out state wide credit checks for foster youth last month. The checks occur on the child’s birthday.
All I can say is that with the plethora of ways people can be defrauded, this is just about the worst way and one that totally missed my radar. If you you still have minor children, definitely run a credit report.