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Children Identity Theft

New statistics from the FTC on identity theft illustrate some interesting trends. From the AP:

Identity thieves are increasingly targeting children. Identity theft complaints involving youngsters under 18 have nearly doubled since 2003, up from 6,512 to more than 11,600 last year, the Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday.

While they make up a small percentage — about 5 percent — of the total ID theft complaints, the FTC’s Jay Miller says young people are attractive to cons because they may not be as savvy about safeguarding personal information and could easily fall prey while surfing the Internet. . . .

Houk’s friend was stunned to learn that someone had fraudulently opened a bank account in her 12-year-old daughter’s name. The con artist then opened about a half dozen credit card accounts, declared bankruptcy, had it written off and left the youngster with a mess of legal hassles.

“It’s an easy thing to do. Once they get a valid Social Security number, they just go to town,” said Houk, acting chief executive of the center, which is a private organization that distributes information about identity theft.

The most victimized age group for identity theft was the 18-to-29 category. The FTC said that category registered 29 percent of the complaints, or more than 70,200.

Last summer, I blogged about a 22-month old toddler who was victimized by identity theft. My guess as to why kids are increasingly targeted is because in many cases, it would take a lot longer for the identity theft to be discovered. Many people learn that they are an identity theft victim when they seek to obtain a loan or credit card — something kids don’t often do. And parents often don’t think that they need to be checking their children’s credit reports, but perhaps they should be.

Of course, kids are not an entirely perfect target for identity theives because kids don’t have much of a credit history to exploit. But with credit card companies and others nearly tripping over themselves to grant credit, it’s no surprise that the identity thieves are able to obtain credit in children’s names.

Originally Posted at Concurring Opinions

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This post was authored by Professor Daniel J. Solove, who through TeachPrivacy develops computer-based privacy training, data security training, HIPAA training, and many other forms of awareness training on privacy and security topics. Professor Solove also posts at his blog at LinkedIn. His blog has more than 1 million followers.

Professor Solove is the organizer, along with Paul Schwartz, of the Privacy + Security Forum and International Privacy + Security Forum, annual events designed for seasoned professionals.

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