What’s the extent of child identity theft in America?

unhappy lovely girl student using mobile digital tablet looking online e-learning teaching video at home and feeling boring.
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Over a million children a year have their identities stolen in America, according to the Javelin study. Most of them are very young. In 2017, two-thirds of the identities stolen from minors were taken from children under the age of eight.

The damage from that one year’s worth of child identity thievery was $2.6 billion.

That same year, 11% of American households lost control of a child’s personal information in a data breach. Invasions like that often result in a kid’s Social Security number and other critical info making their way into the hands of criminals trolling the dark web.

And it doesn’t take a massive breach affecting millions for your child to have their identity stolen:

  • Thieves target the players of popular online games, like Fortnite. They offer nonexistent in-game rewards and then rob players of their account information, which often includes payment details.
  • Hackers regularly target entities like medical offices or schools, where your child’s information may be stored.
  • Free games, music downloads and celebrity gossip links are often used by scammers when creating fake websites.
  • Employment schemes promising jobs that don’t exist target college freshmen and are effective ways of convincing applicants to provide sensitive personal information. A similar scam involves off-campus housing.
  • Many children have their identities stolen by other family members who have access to a child’s birth certificate or SSN. Javelin says these crimes account for approximately one third of all child identity thefts.

What happens once your child’s identity is stolen?

Stressed Person Looking At Rejected Loan Application
Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock

Once a scammer has access to your child’s identifying information, they can wreak an awful lot of havoc.

Adding a false name, age or address to a Social Security number is relatively easy, according to Susana Olivares, Senior Supervisor of Customer Service at cyber security monitoring firm Identity Guard®. Once a SSN has been stolen, thieves can open illicit credit cards or sign up for government benefits in your child’s name.

It could be years before a crime like that is detected. When the time comes for your kid to apply for a credit card or take out a loan to purchase her first car, her SSN could be attached to a brutal credit history she had no part in creating.

“Trying to open a line of credit and finding out your identity has been stolen can be a prelude to months of difficulty, and parents should aim to prevent their kids from facing this or other consequences of personal data theft,” says Olivares.

Keep your kids safe

Working from home office with kid.
Marina Andrejchenko / Shutterstock

Olivares says there are multiple ways to keep your children’s identities safe from online thieves, like educating them about the risks of sharing their personal information online, minimizing the access organizations have to their Social Security numbers and supervising their online activities.

Identity theft can happen at any time, but you can’t keep an eye on your child’s internet use every hour of every day. Partnering with a trusted identity protection provider that has the expertise and resources to continuously monitor threats may make the most sense.

Identity Guard has over 20 years of experience in keeping the identities of Americans — of every age — secure. The company’s family plans cover up to 10 people living at the same household address.

Identity Guard dashboard
Identity Guard

Once you’re subscribed, Identity Guard will monitor your family’s online behavior for risks, keep a watchful eye on multiple accounts and send near-real-time alerts to allow for proactive protection in the event of a potential security breach.

You’ll also have the option of registering your child’s social media login credentials on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, which allows Identity Guard’s IBM® Watson™-powered artificial intelligence to monitor what they’re up to. They won’t be aware of your presence, but if something out of the ordinary happens, you’ll be alerted immediately.

“Being diligent about cyber protection now means that when your children become adults, their identity and credit information will be fresh and unsullied, as it should be,” Olivares says.

12018 Child Identity Fraud Study, Javelin Strategy & Research

About the Author

Clayton Jarvis

Clayton Jarvis


Clayton Jarvis is a mortgage reporter at MoneyWise. Prior to joining the MoneyWise team, Clay wrote for and edited a variety of real estate publications, including Canadian Real Estate Wealth, Real Estate Professional, Mortgage Broker News, Canadian Mortgage Professional, and Mortgage Professional America.

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