Young and Vulnerable: Why Children are Prime Targets for ID Theft (and What to Do About It)

Identity theft is often tied to adults finding out about their maxed-out credit card or bank accounts they never opened.

However, there's a growing and alarming identity threat that's not targeting adults. Cybercriminals are now setting their sights on children and their precious "blank slate" data. In 2017, more than 1.48% of minors (more than a million children) were victims of identity theft. This despicable crime has no age limits, as two-thirds of the affected kids were seven years old or younger.

The Life of PII

Young people under 18 are 35% to 51% more likely to have their identities stolen compared to adults. Why do cybercriminals value a child's personally identifiable information (PII) so much these days?

The answer is simple: targeted adults run the risk of having a low credit score. A low credit rating limits what a hacker can do to an adult's personal information, whereas a child's hold near limitless potential. Since kids don't have bank accounts yet and are non-existent on credit score databases, their PII is like a blank canvas for financial scams. Criminals can then use a child's mint Social Security number to open a new account and commit credit card fraud. This crime is called synthetic identity theft, and kids are the prime target.

Young people under 18 are 35% to 51% more likely to have their identities stolen...

The Repercussions of Child Identity Theft

Victims of child identity theft won't know their personal information has been compromised until it's too late. For instance, some people get a red flag when they apply for a credit card. Others receive a summons or letters from the IRS and banks despite being seven years old and not having a bank account yet. This type of cybercrime can take years to detect and give children all sorts of financial problems when they grow up.

It doesn't help that six in ten children who are victims of identity theft know the suspect personally. Also known as "familiar fraud," perpetrators are usually family friends, but some parents and relatives are also typical suspects. If your home gets bombarded with collection calls or warnings from the IRS, take it as a sign that criminals have your child's data (and probably yours, too). It's time to fight back and protect your identity by using the tips below.

Protecting Your Children

Online Security

Experts warn that sifting through the lies of identity theft and fraud perpetrated against a minor is the same as that of an adult — all the more reason to prevent the crime from happening in the first place.

● Keep Important Documents Locked Away.