Here's What You Need to Remember: In many cases, the fraudster will create a “synthetic identity,” with the minor’s stolen Social Security number, which they can use to do numerous things that the child probably hadn’t, such as open a bank account, open a credit card, apply for a job, request or collect government benefits, file fraudulent tax returns, or sell the stolen identity.
It isn’t only seniors, or even adults, who need to worry about their Social Security numbers being stolen by thieves, scammers and fraudsters.
That’s according to a press release put out this week by myFICO, a division of the company behind FICO credit scores. It cited a story from 2018, showing that “over a million children were the victims of identity fraud” the year before, with most of those victims seven years old or younger at the time of the fraud.
“Whether you're a new parent (congratulations!) or have teenagers in the house (good luck), keeping their information secure should also be a priority. And as children head back to school, you may want to think twice about what information you're sharing.”
MyFICO also said that fraudsters in some cases are someone the child knows, who gained access to their Social Security number.
“A minor can't open a loan or credit card on their own,” the release said. "But the lack of information in their credit history could be beneficial to fraudsters. In a sense, they're clean slates. Plus, parents rarely try to check their child's credit, which means the fraud might not be detected right away.”
In many cases, the fraudster will create a “synthetic identity,” with the minor’s stolen Social Security number, which they can use to do numerous things that the child probably hadn’t, such as open a bank account, open a credit card, apply for a job, request or collect government benefits, file fraudulent tax returns, or sell the stolen identity.
Parents are also advised to be on the watch for suspicious mail that shouldn’t be going to a child, such as credit card solicitations, traffic tickets, and letters from the government claiming that the Social Security number is already in use by someone else.
Parents are also told by myFICO that they should limit what they share about their children online, secure their private documents, check whether their children have credit accounts, and letting the children themselves know to protect their identities.
“If you or your child are victims of identity theft or fraud, know that you're not alone,” the release said. “Resolving the issue can be difficult, but you can report the crime and get a recovery plan from the Federal Trade Commission on IdentityTheft.gov. In addition, if you are a member when the fraud occurs, myFICO's credit and identity-monitoring plans include identity restoration services and identity theft insurance policies that may be able to help.”
It is worth noting that myFICO shares this advice from a position of being a company that sells services meant to prevent such calamities.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.