Identity theft can lead to severe long-term consequences ranging from excessive debt to an inability to find employment. Millions of Americans fall victim to it every year, largely due to improper security of their personal information.
Educating yourself on this crime is the first step toward ensuring adequate protection. To show you everything you need to know, this article covers the main identity theft statistics so that you can see what you’re up against. We’ll also cover child identity theft as a particularly dangerous form of fraud and suggest the best method for keeping your child safe.
How Does Identity Theft Occur?
Before discussing figures and statistics, it’s worth explaining how identity theft happens in the first place. There are two broad types of this crime:
- True-name identity theft
- Synthetic identity fraud
The following table explains the mechanisms behind both crimes:
|ID Theft Type||Explanation|
|True-name identity theft||The perpetrator obtains the victim’s personally identifiable information (PII) and uses it to commit crimes in their name through impersonation|
|Synthetic identity fraud||The culprit combines the victim’s PII with fictitious details to create a new identity and defraud the government and/or financial institutions|
While true-name identity theft predominantly affects adults, for synthetic identities, fraudsters often use children’s private information because it isn’t subject to extensive monitoring. This allows the perpetrator to stay under the radar for a long time and cause serious harm to the victim.
Both types of identity theft are concerningly prevalent in the U.S. payment system, as you’ll see throughout the rest of this article.
How Common Is Identity Theft?
In 2022, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received over 5.1 million fraud reports, 1.1 million of which were specific to identity theft. It doesn’t seem like 2023 will be much better, as there were already over 280,000 ID theft reports in the first quarter.
While Americans from across the nation have suffered from this issue, some states have been affected far more than others. For example, Vermont only had 26 reports per 100K people, while Georgia had 134.
What Age Group Is Most Commonly Victimized by Identity Theft?
The prevalence of identity fraud significantly varies by age. FTCs data showed that people ages 30–39 were the most affected in 2022 (286,890 theft cases), followed by three notable age groups:
- 40–49—212,729 cases
- 20–29—180,146 cases
- 50–59—139,835 cases
Note that the above figures are quite conservative and don’t represent the full extent of identity fraud. This is because not everyone reports identity theft to the FTC—even though doing so is highly recommended.
Javelin’s research showed that around 40 million Americans were affected by this crime in 2022, while Proofpoint’s survey from 2018 showed that one in three people had experienced ID fraud in their life. The chances of falling victim to identity theft are disturbingly high, and losses can be quite significant.
Annual Cost of Identity Theft in the United States
According to the aforementioned Javelin research, total losses due to identity theft were $20 billion in 2022. While this is 15% lower than in 2021, the figure is still quite frightening.
While the cost of an average incident ranges from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, elaborate frauds can rob victims of much more. The largest ID theft case in U.S. history happened over two decades ago, with estimated losses of $50–$100 million.
Identity theft is often financially motivated, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that it can result in such high losses. Still, not all fraud types have monetary gain as the main goal.
Types of Identity Theft—Statistics and Mechanisms
FTC’s data shows that credit card fraud is the most common type of ID theft in the U.S., followed by bank and loan fraud. Other types targeting the victim’s income include:
- Tax fraud and theft of tax returns
- Wage-related fraud
- Government benefits fraud
Besides this, scammers can use others’ identities for various purposes, from obtaining a fake driver’s license to evading the law.
Depending on the fraud type, criminals might target different PII. In some cases, even basic information like someone’s home address and date of birth may be enough. More commonly, though, fraudsters target far more private information, such as the victim’s Social Security number (SSN).
This is especially the case with child identity fraud because children’s SSNs are typically unused, which makes them suitable for synthetic identities. As concerning as adult ID theft is, fraud aimed at children can be far more insidious.
Child Identity Theft—Easy To Execute, Hard To Detect
One in 50 children falls victim to identity theft annually, and their families lose over a billion dollars as a result. The reason for such grim statistics is that this crime is much harder to detect and remediate than it is to commit.
When someone steals a child’s SSN, they can create a synthetic identity quickly by combining it with a made-up name, address, and other details. The fraudster then typically uses the identity to scam banks and other financial institutions by obtaining credit and disappearing.
According to the Federal Reserve’s whitepaper on synthetic identity fraud, between 85% and 95% of credit applicants flagged as synthetic identities aren’t detected by traditional fraud models. This proves how difficult it is to trace a fraudster, who might commit numerous crimes before any red flags show up.
What makes the problem worse is that SSNs of children born after mid-2011 are randomized, which makes them harder to connect to owners because they lack geographical significance.
It’s also among the main reasons why a child’s SSN is so appealing to criminals—more so than an adult’s. CyLab’s report showed that a minor’s identity is up to 51 times more likely to be stolen than their parent’s.
How To Protect Children From Identity Theft
Unfortunately, there aren’t many methods for keeping a child safe from ID theft besides securing their PII and educating them on the dangers of revealing it. Some parents decide to freeze their children’s credit profiles, which offers some protection by making the credit profile inaccessible to new lenders. As a result, fraudsters can’t obtain credit in their name.
A credit freeze still doesn’t prevent someone from stealing a child’s information. It takes a more comprehensive approach to ensure their PII doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. To help parents enjoy more peace of mind, Austin Capital Bank came up with such a solution—FreeKick.
Credit Profile Monitoring and Building by FreeKick
FreeKick combines a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-insured (FDIC-insured) deposit account with additional services to build credit for children ages 14–25 while monitoring their credit profiles.
A credit freeze prevents your child from building a credit history because even legitimate credit accounts can’t be opened while it’s active. This isn’t an issue with FreeKick, which improves your child’s creditworthiness while monitoring their information.
Robust Measures Protecting Your Child’s PII (Coming Soon)
When you sign up for FreeKick, the chances of child identity theft reduce significantly thanks to a variety of services:
|Service||What Is Included|
|Social Security Number Tracing||• Tracking of all names, aliases, and addresses associated with a minor’s SSN|
• True-name and synthetic identity fraud detection
• Mapped view of all locations tied to the child’s SSN
|CyberAgent Dark Web monitoring||• Monitoring of internet activity associated with the potential trading of your child’s sensitive information|
|Full-service ID restoration||• A dedicated restoration specialist working on your child’s behalf to restore their identity if it’s stolen|
• $1 million insurance covering ancillary restoration services
|Neighborhood sex offender monitoring||• An alert and a report if a sex offender in your area registers under a different name using your address|
FreeKick also offers four additional services designed for young adults to help them protect their information:
- Lost wallet monitoring—Helps protect Social Security cards, credit cards, driver’s licenses, and other documents
- Change of address monitoring—Sends a report in case of redirections of your child’s mail through the USPS
- Payday loan monitoring—Alerts you if your child’s SSN is used to obtain payday loans
- Court records monitoring—Browses court records to detect any unauthorized use of the child’s sensitive information
How FreeKick Builds a Credit History for Your Child
A strong credit profile doesn’t only make it easier for your child to obtain loans—it can help them save over $200,000 throughout adulthood. The sooner your child starts a credit history, the more time they have to maximize their score.
If you want to secure a more stable future for your child, you can do it with FreeKick in three steps:
- Create a FreeKick account—Go to FreeKick.bank and choose a plan based on a one-time deposit
- Set It and Forget It—FreeKick builds 12 months of credit history for your child through a $600 no-interest loan paid from the deposit. Everything happens on autopilot, so no ongoing action is needed
- Keep Growing—At the end of the 12-month term, you can renew the account to keep improving your child’s credit or close it and get your deposit back
FreeKick offers a free plan and two tiers with low annual fees to help you avoid unnecessary monthly subscriptions:
- Free—One-time FDIC-insured deposit of $2,500
- $49/year—One-time FDIC-insured deposit of $1,750
- $99/year—One-time FDIC-insured deposit of $1,000
Your child’s credit history will be reported to credit bureaus immediately if they’re 18 and over (19 and over in Alabama). If your child is a minor, they’ll go through a simple process to activate reporting when they become a legal adult, as per the credit bureaus’ requirements.
With this in mind, no credit can be reported on your child’s behalf if you close the account while they’re still a minor. You can still do it at any point without penalties, and your deposit will be returned to the account it came from.
Keep your child’s credit profile clean and help them enjoy more financial freedom during adulthood—sign up for FreeKick.