There are three types of child identity theft, the most common being financial identity theft. Medical and personal identity thefts are also becoming exceedingly common. In the United States, for example, there are more than 11,500 reported cases of child identity theft every year. Authorities, however, believe the number of actual cases is much higher. Unlike adult victims of this crime, child victims typically do not realize a crime has taken place until they reach the age of majority.
Financial child identity theft involves using a minor’s social security number in order to obtain credit from lenders. It can also include using a child’s information to set up utility accounts or rental agreements. While most reported cases involve a stranger utilizing the information for financial theft, oftentimes parents or other family members use a child’s personal information for these purposes. This can be relatively simple to do, especially if the child is named after the family member.
Whether the crime is committed by a relative or stranger, the child does not often realize that anything is amiss until he tries to apply for his first credit card or student loans. This can result in as many as 18 years’ worth of bad credit, and it can take years to permanently erase the damage. Financial child identity theft is becoming increasingly popular due to the amount of time the criminal has to cover his tracks before the crime is discovered.
Medical child identity theft takes place when a child’s personal information is used to obtain health insurance coverage or when the child’s existing coverage is used for another person. This can not only lead to issues for the child in obtaining health insurance as an adult, but also to health risks. In recent years, many major medical facilities have moved to digitized medical records, which has made it much more difficult for an adult to steal a child’s medical insurance due to the obvious age difference. It is becoming relatively common, however, for parents to use one child’s insurance for another child, often not realizing the risks.
Personal child identity theft is usually done to avoid legal issues. A wanted criminal will live under a child’s name, which allows him to essentially hide from the law by using the child’s information instead of his own. Personal child identity theft is also often perpetrated by illegal immigrants who have a child born in the country in which they reside. The child’s citizenship is used to obtain work privileges, allowing the immigrant to stay in the country undetected and make a living.
No matter what type of child identity theft is committed, the consequences are often the same. Once a child reaches the age of majority, he can be faced with financial, medical and legal issues that can be costly and time consuming. To avoid this unpleasant surprise, parents are encouraged to check their child’s social security number and credit report yearly to ensure a crime has not taken place.