Synthetic identity theft

An ‘On Your Side’ Investigation

On Your Side: Synthetic ID theft

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - As hard as we work as parents to protect our kids and prepare them for when they become an adult. We found one part of your child’s life you might not even think to protect, and scammers are using it right now to steal billions and potentially ruin your child’s future before it ever gets started - synthetic ID theft.

“Children’s Social Security Numbers are very valuable to thieves because they can commit the fraud undetected for years,” says Eva Velasquez, President of the ID Theft Resource Center.

It can work 2 different ways. First, thieves get a hold of your child’s social security number and create an entire fake identity from it, opening credit card lines and racking up thousands in debt that can tank your child’s credit rating before they’re even out of Kindergarten.

Then there’s the luck of the draw scam where thieves make up a random social security number that doesn’t belong to anyone when they start using it, but eventually is assigned to your child.

“We’re talking to parents who are getting a SSN issued to their newborn, they go to claim that on their taxes, and find out that number that belongs to their 9 month old has a 5 year credit history,” Velasquez says. “So the number was tainted before it was ever even issued.”

Congress passed a law this year to force credit bureaus and the social security administration to create a shared database to stop that from happening, but it’s still not up and running and could take a while before it is.

“You need to think about who you’re sharing with, only share it when you need to, and teach your child “eventually you’re going to have to become your own steward of this information,” Velasquez says.

But don’t share it with your child too soon - Experian recommends not even teaching your child their number until they’re at least 16.

“So if there’s a request for it from the school, from the little league team, from the doctor’s office, there’s no reason the parent should give the child the social to give on themselves, it should be directly dealt with by the parent,” says Michael Bruemmer, a vice president at Experian.

This new law also lets you freeze your credit for free, and you can do that for your child now, and know that no one can open any lines of credit until you unfreeze it when they’re ready to start buying their own stuff.

“You have to remember you’ve frozen your child’s credit and you have to retain the information that will allow them to unfreeze it,” Velasquez warns. “That’s a lot of responsibility over a long period of time.”

Experian is also offering a free credit checking tool for parents to use to check and see if your child’s SSN already has any kind of credit report and offering free help to fix it.

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