American families lose hundreds of millions of dollars due to child identity theft every year. If you’re concerned about the chances of your child falling victim to this crime, you may ask, “How many minors under 18 years of age have had their identity stolen?”
This article explains the prevalence of child identity theft based on the most recent reports. You will learn what age groups are at the highest risk and how fraudsters steal their identities. We will go over the best tactics for safeguarding your child’s information to prevent their identity from falling into the wrong hands.
How Many Minors Have Had Their Identity Stolen?
According to Javelin’s research, identity theft affects around 1.25 million (one in 50) children annually. This corresponds with the findings of law-enforcement veteran Robert Chappell Jr., whose findings indicate 1.3 million cases each year.
With these numbers in mind, fraudsters have stolen the identities of millions of children in just the last few years. While a million victims per year seems like a high number, the total number of victims is likely much higher. That’s because most victims of child identity fraud don’t know they are victims and won’t know for years. One expert estimated that there might be millions of victims (or even tens of millions) that are unaware.
While a more recent report showed a decline to 915,000 cases in 2021/2022, the figures are still quite concerning. Despite parents’ efforts to protect their children’s identities, financial criminals still manage to get ahold of their information. Although children of all ages are affected, certain groups are at a higher risk than others.
Teenage Identity Theft—The Most Prevalent Form of Fraud
After analyzing 4,311 cases of child identity theft, Cylab found that teens ages 15–18 were the most common victims. They also found that over half the victims were under 14 years old, potentially giving the criminal years to commit fraud before being detected when a child becomes an adult and attempts to use their credit for the first time. The following table breaks down the prevalence of this crime among different age groups:
|Age Group||Percentage of ID Theft Cases|
|5 and under||7%|
|Age data unavailable||3%|
The same research showed that minors—regardless of their age—are up to 51 times more likely to have their identity stolen than their parents.
This doesn’t come as a surprise when you consider that children typically aren’t as perceptive or skeptical about revealing their information as adults—especially when such information is requested by someone they trust.
Who Is Most Likely To Steal a Child’s Identity?
According to Experian’s data, around 33% of child identity theft victims knew the person who stole their PII, with the perpetrator typically being:
- Family friend
- Babysitter or coach
- Other acquaintances
The survey also shows that in those cases where the victim found out who the perpetrator was, more than 40% stated one of the parents was responsible.
This creates another problem—to recover from the theft, the victim might have to choose whether to report a family member to the police or live with a poor credit score or debt.
What Information Scammers Typically Steal (and How They Use It)
Any PII can be used for identity fraud, including the following:
- Birth date
Still, children’s Social Security numbers (SSNs) are particularly in demand among fraudsters. If someone steals the number, they can combine it with fabricated information to create an entirely new identity.
This is known as synthetic identity fraud, and it’s among the most prominent ID fraud types affecting children. As synthetic identities are often difficult to distinguish from legitimate ones, they can be used for numerous purposes, most notably financial and tax fraud.
Such crimes can go unnoticed for a long time because children’s identities don’t undergo extensive monitoring. Children born after 2011 also have randomized SSNs, which are particularly difficult to trace back to the owner.
ID theft can have devastating consequences, which depend on the exact crime related to the SSN. For example, if someone obtains a loan or credit card using your child’s number, all the debt is connected to their SSN. While it’s possible to dispute and close fraudulent accounts, the child’s credit profile can be severely damaged.
Worse yet, it may take a long time to remove the records of crimes committed using the SSN. A good example is Marcus Calvillo, who spent almost 20 years trying to clear his name after his identity had been stolen. During that time, Calvillo couldn’t find or keep a job as a result of the crimes someone had committed under his name and SSN.
According to Experian’s 2018 Child Identity Theft Aftermath Survey, it takes three years on average to resolve a child’s identity theft, and 25% of the victims are still dealing with the effects ten years later.
Prevention Is the Best Medicine
It’s natural to be frightened of child identity theft after seeing how common this crime is and how it can impact your child’s well-being. Luckily, this crime is preventable with proper PII security.
Considering everything that someone can do with your child’s SSN, it’s clear you should be extremely cautious about revealing it—and you must teach your child to exercise the same caution. Keep in mind that most institutions and individuals don’t need your child’s SSN, barring a few exceptions:
- Government institutions (e.g., the IRS)
- Healthcare providers
If you get a request from your child’s school or other institutions to submit their SSN, double-check to make sure the request is legitimate and no other identifier can be used.
Physical document security is another important consideration, especially because the perpetrator can be someone known to the family who might have access to your home. Keep your child’s sensitive documents hidden or in a safe and make sure to restrict access to them.
Finally, safeguarding your child’s credit profile is an excellent way to minimize the risk of financially-motivated identity fraud. You can either freeze your child’s profile or monitor it, with the latter being a more effective option.
Freezing vs. Monitoring Your Child’s Credit Profile
Your child most likely doesn’t have a credit profile if they’re a minor. Unless you’ve added them as an authorized user of your credit card, they don’t have access to financial products that would let them establish a credit history.
To prevent someone from creating a credit profile using a child’s SSN, you can request a freeze from the three major consumer credit bureaus:
The credit bureau will create and immediately freeze your child’s credit profile, making it inaccessible to new lenders. This means the fraudster can’t obtain loans in the child’s name.
The problem with a credit freeze is that requesting one is time-consuming and complicated, as you must do it with all three credit bureaus separately. Another issue is that your child can’t open legitimate credit accounts when the time comes until their credit profile is unfrozen.
This is why professional credit profile monitoring can be a better option. It doesn’t limit your child’s future loan requests and it offers more comprehensive protection than a freeze. If you need a reliable service for keeping your child’s credit profile under close supervision, Austin Capital Bank has a solution—FreeKick.
FreeKick—Ongoing Credit Profile Building and Monitoring (V2 Coming Soon)
FreeKick combines a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-insured (FDIC-insured) deposit account and additional services to oversee your child’s credit profile and improve their creditworthiness.
If your child is 14–25 years old, FreeKick can help ensure their credit profile remains clean. Instead of having to request a report from credit bureaus every once in a while, you can rest assured FreeKick’s team is monitoring the credit profile at all times.
The service encompasses various additional security measures to help prevent child identity theft:
- Social Security monitoring—FreeKick tracks all names, aliases, and addresses associated with your child’s SSN, providing synthetic and true-name identity fraud detection. You also get a map of all locations associated with the SSN for a clear overview
- Dark Web monitoring—Child identity fraud often starts on the Dark Web, so FreeKick monitors all internet activity related to the potential trading of your child’s PII
- Full-service ID restoration—In case of identity theft, FreeKick appoints a certified restoration specialist to work on your child’s behalf and restore it. Ancillary restoration services are covered with a $1 million insurance
- Sex offender monitoring—Identifies and monitors registered sex offenders in your proximity. If an offender uses your address to register under a different name, you’ll get an alert with a detailed report
Young adults are eligible for additional services that keep their information safe from theft:
- Lost wallet protection
- Change of address monitoring
- Payday monitoring
- Court records monitoring
Let FreeKick Establish a Strong Credit Profile for Your Child
As FreeKick watches over your child’s credit profile, it helps them improve it through automated credit building. It all happens in three steps:
- Create a FreeKick account—Go to FreeKick.bank and choose a plan based on a one-time FDIC-insured deposit:
- Free—One-time deposit of $2,500
- $49/year—One-time deposit of $1,750
- $99/year—One-time deposit of $1,000
- Set It and Forget It—FreeKick builds 12 months of credit history for your child and reports their credit history to the credit bureaus if they’re a legal adult. If they are still a minor, their credit history will be reported once they reach legal age and activate reporting
- Keep Growing—At the end of the 12-month term, you can renew the account for another one (up to 48 months) or close it and get 100% of your deposit back
By entering adulthood with a strong credit profile, your child can save over $200,000 throughout their life. You can give them such a significant advantage without trying to improve their credit single-handedly.
You can close your FreeKick account at any point without fees or penalties. Note that credit bureaus only accept reporting for adults, so if you do it while your child is still a minor, no credit history can be reported for the account.
To invest in your child’s future and ensure their credit profile is monitored by experts, sign up for FreeKick.