I-Team: 1 in 10 kids are identity theft victims

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Before your child takes their first steps, a thief could be applying for a credit card or even obtaining a mortgage using your child’s social security number.

1 in every 10 kids are victims of identity theft, those thieves are targeting children younger than 5 years old. Several states have an extra layer of protection for children; Massachusetts isn’t one of them.

Look around your child’s classroom. It’s likely that 2 or 3 kids are victims of identity theft. If you don’t catch it, it could put everything from obtaining a college loan to getting a job in jeopardy for your children. An All Clear ID report shows that kids are 35 times more likely to be identity theft victims than adults.

“For a child’s identity theft it goes years unnoticed, that’s why perpetrators take advantage of it,” said Milagros Johnson, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Consumer Information in Springfield.

Parents don’t usually monitor their kids credit reports, why would you? Your kids shouldn’t have any credit.

“There would not be a report for your child if there is no credit, if there has been no activity with their social security number on their credit files. So if you request one (a credit report) and there is one, that’s a red flag,” said Johnson.

23 states help you create a credit report for your child, so that you can freeze it until they need to establish credit. Massachusetts isn’t one of them.

Even with a credit freeze, thieves can use children’s social security numbers to file fake tax returns and get illegitimate refunds.

(How prevalent is child identity theft?) “It’s big, Ryan,” said Paul Mancinone, Tax Attorney at Paul L. Mancinone Company, P.C. “There was a case in New York in the Bronx where identities were stolen of foster children and they were used on tax returns, he was selling them to use on tax returns to get the earned income credit. He just got sentenced to 9 years in prison.”

(How much money are we talking about?) “It could be $4,000 or $5,000 a tax return and if its a fictitious tax return the sky is the limit, we’ve seen tax returns as high as $8,000,” said Mancinone.

10% of kids have had their identity stolen, according to a Carnegie Mellon study.

A 14 year old had a credit history that went back more than 10 years. Credit cards and a foreclosed mortgage were already in his name, financing a $605,000 home.

One victim reported more than $1 million in fraud. Her social security number had been used since she was 9 years old, with more than 40 open accounts.

(If you become a victim, what are the steps you can take to try and rectify that?) “If you suspect there is a case of identity theft, certainly you want to request the three credit reports, you want to place a fraud alert, you want to notify the social security administration and you want to remain active until that case is resolved,” said Johnson.

The Carnegie Mellon study claims the information is being mostly used by illegal immigrants, organized criminals for financial fraud and by family and friends to get around their own bad credit.

Equifax now allows you to freeze your child’s credit, regardless of the state you live in.

Here’s how you can try to protect your child’s identity:

  • Keep your child’s social security in a secure location. Don’t share it.
  • Don’t put your child’s birthday on the internet or social media. When thieves connect a name, birthday and social security number, it’s a recipe for a disaster.
  • Check your mail to see if there’s anything out of the ordinary in your child’s name.

Click here for information on freezing your child’s credit report through Equifax.

Also, here is information from the state on protecting your children from identity theft

This is information from the Federal Trade Commission on Child Identity Theft and what to do if your child has a fraudulent tax return filed in their name

The Federal Trade Commission provides information on how to protect your child from identity theft and how to repair their credit if they become a victim

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