To help parents protect against child identity theft, Experian is rolling out a Child ID scan. The service comes as 1 million children had their identities stolen last year, and Experian has designated Saturday (Sept. 1) as Child Identity Theft Awareness Day, the company said in an announcement.
The scan seeks to find if a child’s Social Security number (SSN) matches an Experian credit file. If a credit file is found, the company’s fraud resolution team will seek to guide parents or guardians through their next steps. In terms of statistics, the company found through a survey that victims believed they were 12 years old on average when the identity theft occurred. Furthermore, about half — or 45 percent — of respondents didn't learn of the theft until they were between 16 and 18 years old.
“A child's SSN is like gold to identity thieves and a clean slate for criminals to do damage over possibly a long period of time,” said Michael Bruemmer, vice president of Consumer Protection at Experian, in the announcement. “We are vigilant when it comes to protecting people's identities, and hope Child Identity Theft Awareness Day rallies communities and parents to take action.”
The news comes as fraudsters are taking on fresh Social Security numbers — the ones issued to children, the most vulnerable victims. That’s because criminals can get away with their schemes a lot longer — for years, as credit profiles take shape over a period of years. These youngest victims will not be actively checking their reports until they do things like (legitimately) apply for loans, credit cards or mortgages.
The bad actors behind synthetic identity fraud are also “hopping” onto legitimate accounts. There’s that wealth of data again, which allows the criminals to gather info from social media (high school, mother’s maiden name, dog’s name), along with traditional data, and gain entrée into an account. As a result, they can lock the real user out by changing passwords and drain the account.