Identity theft's next frontier: Your kids

Identity theft's next frontier: Your kids

Summary: A report by Carnegie Mellon's CyLab finds that identity theft is a growing concern for children. In a scan of 42,000 child IDs, CyLab found that more than 10 percent of kids had someone else using their Social Security number.

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A report by Carnegie Mellon's CyLab finds that identity theft is a growing concern for children. In a scan of 42,000 child IDs, CyLab found that more than 10 percent of kids had someone else using their Social Security number.

Why are kids such a good target? Parents aren't paying attention. However, parents should pay attention since CyLab found that children had a 51 percent higher attack rate than adults. The problem is likely to get worse as more kids go online at a younger age.

CyLab scanned more than 42,000 child IDs by identify protection company Debix and found:

  • 4,311, or 10 percent of children, had someone else use their Social Security numbers;
  • These IDs were used to buy homes, cars and open credit lines.
  • Largest fraud was $725,000 against a 16 year old girl.
  • The youngest victim was five months old and 303 victims were under 5.
  • 1,767 cases where a child Social Security Numbers were found in utility records.

CyLab noted that the report isn't scientific. It's not aimed to project total child identity theft incidents. What the report aims to do is highlight the issue. The upshot is that children are good targets for identity thieves.

From the report:

This child identity theft report is not based on survey results. It is based on identity protection scans on 42,232 children (age 18 and under) in the U.S during 2009-2010. This pool of 42,232 child identities includes everyone under 18 in a database of over 800,000 identity records.

The participants were enrolled in the Debix AllClear ID Protection Network after receiving notice that their personal information may have been compromised during a data breach. Excluded from this report were children and adults who were affected by data breaches that resulted in targeted attacks against the population.

Note: The attacks do not appear related to the data breach events. For example, 78% of the child attacks occurred prior to the data breach events. Moreover, the attack rate for the adults affected by these same data breaches is very low at 0.2% - below the national average of 1% for the general population (Source: Javelin 2010).

The report's author, Richard Power, concluded:

Although the data’s statistical significance is yet to be determined, it is certainly profoundly significant on a practical, human level to the thousands of children and families who have thus been victimized. Furthermore, from my perspective, having tracked the evolution of cyber crime over two decades, it is only common sense to surmise that the problem goes beyond those breached accounts included in this report, and that there are many thousands more children and their families at risk.

There's also a passage in the report from Allessandro Acquisti, a Carnegie Mellon researcher, who discovered that it's easy to cull Social Security numbers from public data. In fact, it's easier to get Social Security numbers from people born after the 1990s. The child identity theft and the vulnerability of Social Security numbers could be a dangerous combination.

Related:

Topics: Government US, Banking, Enterprise Software, Government, Security

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39 comments
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  • It's this way because banks want it this way.

    ID theft is big business, not only to scammers but also to the banks and credit bureaus who stand to profit from it.

    It creates a completely new market of products to "protect" people from the holes that have been intentionally left in the system. And it creates a permanent underclass of victims who have to pay through the nose because of "sub-prime" credit ratings.

    It's such a sweet deal that the actual losses due to ID theft pale in comparison.
    terry flores
    • RE: Identity theft's next frontier: Your kids

      @terry flores
      In other words, the financial industry is run by crooks.

      And in other news, the sun will rise to tomorrow morning.
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      • RE: Identity theft's next frontier: Your kids

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      • RE: Identity theft's next frontier: Your kids

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    • RE: Identity theft's next frontier: Your kids

      @terry flores

      Actually, not true. If you can prove that a charge isn't yours (which isn't hard if the charge is halfway around the world and you have never been outside of the United States or even your tri-state area), the credit reporting companies HAVE to take it off your credit history period and done with.

      It cannot even be MENTIONED on your credit reports if it is in error or was done by a scammer. The problem is finding out that someone is racking up these charges. People should check all three of their credit reports every single year, but most don't because two (TransUnion and one whose name I forget) make you have to mail in to get your credit report.
      Not necessary in our digital age.
      Lerianis10
      • RE: Identity theft's next frontier: Your kids

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    • Completely untrue.

      @terry flores Completely untrue. The losses to the financial industry due to fraud are huge. Many fees, etc. on good customers are required to offset the losses. This is not unlike shoplifting in retail. We all pay for the criminal acts through somewhat higher prices, and security hassles. The financial industry spends hundreds of millions on security every year. The revenues that bank's collect for getting a cut of identify protection protection services that are actually provided by the credit reporting companies like Experian and TransUnion that they co-market to their customers is a rounding error by comparison.
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    • RE: Identity theft's next frontier: Your kids

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  • RE: Identity theft's next frontier: Your kids

    Since SSN are pretty much required for anything frmo the time a person is born "You are not required to give us your SSN but we will deny you any service if you fail to voluntarily disclose it."

    It is a de-facto universal ID (required by ALL governments to be given to them - and then kept forever).
    And parents are not going to be actively monitoring a 3 month old's SSN for ID theft.

    Course this ALSO means the SS Administration does not have ANY fraud alerts built into their system when a 3 month old person earns 50,000 a year in income from NJ when they live in Montana - and then never notifies anyone that their SSN is being used outside where they live.

    Remember, every year SS Admin sends a person their income / benefit statement yet they do not check it for obvious fraudalent use of SSNs!
    TAPhilo
    • RE: Identity theft's next frontier: Your kids

      @TAPhilo

      Good point. The federal government should be proactive and when they see something that is obviously fraudulent like that, do their own investigation.
      Lerianis10
      • RE: Identity theft's next frontier: Your kids

        @Lerianis10 I've seen this happen to too many good people. Some measures should be created to ramp up protection.
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    • RE: Identity theft's next frontier: Your kids

      @TAPhilo This is very a major concern. The financial industry must come up with a compliance regulation similar to HIPAA.
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  • RE: Identity theft's next frontier: Your kids

    Time for class-action lawsuits against the purveyors of credit to the fraudsters for failing to do due diligence in granting credit.
    wkulecz
    • RE: Identity theft's next frontier: Your kids

      @wkulecz

      I somewhat agree. I know that people want to be able to access credit 'easily' at stores, but is it really so hard to ask for identifying things that no one else would know unless they were stalking you or for photo ID.
      Lerianis10