I-TEAM: Yes, even identity theft among children is on the rise nationwide

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Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

(Source: MGN Online)

RICHMOND COUNTY, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- Identity theft is on the rise in Richmond County. The sheriff's office has already surpassed the number of identity fraud cases this year than reported in 2017 and 2018.

We typically think of the victims as adults but bad guys are also targeting children.

As parents, we try protect our children from all of life's bumps. But it's difficult to keep them safe from what we don't see.

"A child's Social Security number is considered clean,” Kevin Link, a financial crimes investigator with Richmond County, said. “It doesn't have any debt attached to it; no loans or anything like that, which makes it particularly appealing for thieves."

Link says this year, 203 people have so far reported having their identity stolen. That's up from the 196 cases last year. Some of the victims aren't even old enough to drive.

"The focus is mainly on adults as the victim and what people don't realize is that children's personal information is out there also,” Link said.

Nationwide, more than 1 million children were victims of identity fraud in 2017, which cost their families over $540 million in out of pocket costs.

"When a child is issued a Social Security number, it goes to all of the credit bureaus, so it’s there – it’s out there. It's just sitting in a dormant stage because it's not being used,” Link said.

But more often than not, the child knows the person who stole their identity unlike adult victims of identity fraud.

"I've even seen it where parents have used their child's Social Security number to open lines of credit and then once they get the credit line open they don't pay the bill,” Link said.

"They're damaging their child's credit at a very young age before they can even do anything."

So what can you do to protect your child? First, make sure your child's Social Security card is stored in a safe place. Never carry it around with you.

Next, freeze your little one's credit. To do that, you'll need to mail a written request to each of the three credit bureaus along with documentation which proves you're the parent -- like a birth certificate. You will also need to send identification for both of you and your child, which could be a Social Security card or a license depending on which bureau.

"A lot of times they don’t find out until they reach adulthood,” Link said.

And pothole of debt could bring their young lives to a screeching halt.

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