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Child identity theft on the rise

By William E. Lewis Jr.

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, March 13 2012 10:51 a.m. MDT

Child identity theft is on the rise

Utah Attorney General

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SALT LAKE CITY — Child identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in America. It serves as a reminder that parents should be careful when sharing their children's name, date of birth or social security number with third parties.

Child identity theft occurs when a child's personal identifiers are stolen by an imposter and used in the application for credit, goods, benefits, services, licenses or employment. The identity thief could be a family member, a friend or a complete stranger. Identify thieves purposely target children because of the lengthy time between the theft and the discovery of the crime.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, child identity theft reports have more than doubled since 2006. With 144,213 reported cases in 2010, the FTC has predicted that number to double again by 2013.

Children are easy targets because identity thieves get an 8-10 year head start on them. Most are not aware they have become victims until they apply for a driver's license, employment, credit, the military or college.

While most child identity theft cases involve strangers, often split families or broken homes account for others. This is where one of the parents is the perpetrator and the crime is exposed by the other. More often than not, the offending parent has bad credit and is unable to obtain rental housing or open a utility account.

Discovery often occurs:

1. When attempting to open a savings/checking account or college fund. In this scenario, the unoffending parent discovers that there is already an account under the child’s social security number or that the account is denied as a result of worthless checks on file at Telecheck or ChexSystems;

2. When pre-approved credit card offers come in the mail bearing the name of the child;

3. When credit cards, checks, invoices or bank statements not opened by an unoffending parent as a joint holder are received bearing the name of the child;

4. When debt collectors call and send letters about accounts not opened by the child;

5. When a child is denied a driver's license because another individual has one with their social security number. The imposter may even have accumulated traffic tickets in their name;

6. While going through papers during a divorce proceeding or while straightening up the house (in cases of parental identity theft);

7. When a law enforcement officer knocks at your door with a warrant for your child’s arrest.

The FTC recommends vigilance when sharing personal information about your child and urges parents to report discrepancies to the agency.

Utah program aims to help parents, children

Child identity theft is part of a growing number of scams and is the fastest-growing segment of identity theft. Taking the initiative to be proactive in the fight against child identity theft, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff recently implemented a new Child Identity Protection program aimed at curtailing these crimes against children.

Partnering with the TransUnion consumer reporting agency, Utahns can now protect their children against identity thieves by registering them with the state agency. Upon registration, the child’s name and social security number are forwarded to the credit bureau where it is placed into a “high-risk” database, warning those who inquire not to issue credit or other benefits to applicants using that number.

“Parents can proactively reduce the incidence of identity theft for their children through our CIP program,” Richard Hamp, the assistant attorney general who helped create the program, told KSL. “Although the program does not completely eliminate the risk for past identity theft victims, it does reduce it.”

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