Child Identity Theft

Child identity theft is a growing problem. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that there are 500,000 new victims every year. The culprits are often parents or others who have direct access to the child’s Social Security number. (In my own experience, I’ve had to give out my children’s Social Security numbers to hospitals, insurers, and schools more than I can count.) When irresponsible parents apply for credit in their children’s names due to existing financial hardships, the soiling of their credit begins.

Jason Truxel was denied a mortgage because of bad credit. He had no idea that his credit scores were low, so he pulled his credit reports. He discovered a tremendous amount of debt, and accounts he had never opened. One such account showed that a credit card had been opened in his name when he was 13 years old. Jason found out the hard way that he was a victim of child identity theft. When Jason was a child, his father was convicted of credit card fraud.

You may be saying, “Of course I would never steal my own child’s identity,” but sometimes the custodial parent discovers that his or her ex committed identity theft when notices from bill collectors begin to arrive.

If you ever determine that your child’s identity has been stolen, you should immediately file a report with a local police department. A police report is often the first step to have the unauthorized accounts removed from the child’s credit report.

Creditors often fail to verify the applicant’s age and simply accept a credit application at face value. Children rarely discover that they are victims of identity theft until they are adults, when they are denied a student loan or even a job, if their potential employer runs a credit check and deems the applicant irresponsible based on poor credit history.

Some would say, “Protect your child’s Social Security number,” which is okay advice, but not practical and not really possible. The best solution is to invest in identity theft protection.

To ensure peace of mind and protect your child’s most valuable asset, his or her identity, subscribe to an identity protection service, such as McAfee Identity Protection, which offers proactive identity surveillance, lost wallet protection, and alerts when suspicious activity is detected on your accounts. For additional tips, please visit

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee consultant and identity theft expert. See him discuss child identity theft on NBC Boston. (Disclosures)