At a recent off-site congressional hearing held in Plano, Texas, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security met with the Federal Trade Commission to discuss the disturbing trend of child identity theft that has been occurring throughout the United States. During the hearing, the FTC said that, “Protecting consumers – especially vulnerable consumers such as children – against identity theft and its consequences is a critical component of the Commission’s consumer protection mission,” according to the website Collections Credit Risk.
An ever-growing problem, the amount of child identity theft that was reported between 2003 and 2009 increased almost 200%, according to data revealed by the FTC. The government website Next revealed that over 140,000 children nationwide fall victim to identity thieves annually. These children are, on occasion, being victimized by their own relatives who opted to use their young family member’s name and Social Security number to apply for credit.
Testimony delivered during the hearing explained that children’s SSNs are uniquely valuable to those looking to perpetuate fraud because they do not yet have a credit history attached to them and therefore can be paired with essentially any name and birth date.
“In effect, a child’s identity is a blank slate that can be used to obtain goods and services over a long time period because parents typically do not monitor their children’s credit, often having no reason to suspect any problem,” reported Collections Credit Risk.
According to Next, Robert Feldt, special agent in charge at the SSA Office of Inspector General’s Dallas field division, said child identity theft “allows for the potential long-term undetected abuse of a genuine SSN and the potential long-term harm to a young person’s financial future.”
Then, once they reach age 18 and starts seeking financial aid for college or applying for credit cards, the victim discovers unfamiliar things such as unpaid bills or loan defaults attributed to their social security number.
As Collections and Risks then concludes, “child identity theft is especially pernicious because the theft may not be detected until the child becomes an adult and seeks employment, or applies for student and car loans,” as per the testimony.