Addressing Child Identity Theft as Financial Exploitation
Howard Davidson, Joanne McNabb  -  2010/7/7
http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ovcproviderforum
 
 
How can you find out if your child is a victim of identity theft? Is there any monitoring like credit reports that can be used?
 
1.  Joanne McNabb
 For Lisa: I'm not aware of any requirement that a child be 13 to get a credit report. The credit reporting agencies say they do not knowingly create credit records on minors (under 18), since they cannot legally enter into contracts for credit. See our info sheet on how to request a child's credit report (or confirm that it doesnt' exist), at www.privacy.ca.gov/consumer_information_sheet.htm
 
2.  Linda Foley
 Ms McNabb's information is correct. The ITRC works with children cases almost daily. If a parent writes for a credit report- the best answer is there is no report. A report begins with the first application for credit, which a child cannot do. If there is a report, the probabilities are that the only field that will match is the SSN
 
3.  Lisa
 Can you please discuss the criteria for the child being at least 13 years old to receive a report from the 3 bureaus? I have not requested a report under 13, but have had clients tell me they struggled. What solutions can I advise them of?
 
4.  Joanne McNabb
 The normal procedures for checking an adult's credit report don't work for minors. This is because the credit reporting agencies don't knowingly create credit records for minors. When such records do exist, they're nearly always the result of errors (typos, etc.) or fraud. To determine whether your child has credit records in hisher identity, you need to request a manual check from the credit reporting agencies. The California Office of Privacy Protection has an info sheet on how to do this, with sample letters at www.privacy.ca.gov/consumer_information_sheet.htm.
 
5.  Howard Davidson
 A parent can check with each of the three national credit reporting agencies, providing their child's name and social security number. Since children should not have any credit entries, if there is a credit report then identity theft is likely and should be followed up, including requesting a security alertcredit block.
 
 
What obligation do companies have to check that a parent isn't using their child's information instead of their own for services?
 
1.  Linda Foley
 How would a company know if the SSN belongs to a minor?
 
2.  Joanne McNabb
 You raise a very good point. The other side of identity theft prevention - apart from the efforts potential victims should make to protect themselves - is those who are granting credit and other benefits based on inadequately identifying the applicant. Recent amendments to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act imposed some requirements on financial institutions and credit-grantors in this regard. For example, they must take reasonable steps to verify a change of address or additional credit card request from an account holder in certain circumstances. (These are known ID theft methods.)Other than that sort of minimal requirement, the assumption appears to be that businesses issuing credit (or other benefits) are motivated enough by their interest in getting paid to authenticate applicants' identities andor eligibility. That doesn't seem to be sufficient in all cases. A 3-year-old, for example, wouldn't be likely to have a record indicating creditworthiness, so one might wonder why a creditor would extend credit based on a check on that identity (SSN).
 
3.  Howard Davidson
 I'm not sure I fully understand this question. I don't know of a specific legal obligation a company that issues credit has to go behind the credit request documents to determine a misuse by a parent of a child's identity.
 
4.  Linda Foley
 I guess my question would be: how would a company know? Most accept credit applications blindly. There is no database that the CRAs now use to alert a company this is a minor. If it is a known case, there might be an alert that the FCRA does have a set of obligations documented.
 
 
have any states adopted legislation that affords children protection from identity theft?
 
1.  Howard Davidson
 I'm not aware of any state legislation on child identity theft, other than the two laws (CA and IL) that address foster children only.
 
2.  Theresa
 In Florida parents/guardians that are convicted of Id Theft(F.S. 817.568) against a minor child can receive harsher penalties.
 
 
Do prosecutors experience similar challenges moving forward with child identity theft cases as they do with child abuse cases when the parent is the perpetrator in both instances?
 
1.  Howard Davidson
 If it can be established that a parent misused their child's identity to secure credit, then I would expect a state criminal prosecutor would handle that much as any other identity theft case, but they may also make a report to child protective services to trigger a more careful look at what is going on in the family and if the child is a victim of other abuse or neglect.
 
 
If you find out your child is a victim of identity theft what are your options?
 
1.  Linda Foley
 If you have evidence of child identity theft, the first step is a police report. If credit is involved, you will also need to write the CRAs. Please visit www.idtheftcenter.org FS 120 for additional information and the letter form to use to request credit reports
 
2.  Howard Davidson
 Joanne will likely say more about this, but a parent should request a fraud alert and credit freeze be placed on the record of the credit reporting agency; an ID Theft Complaint report should be filed with the Federal Trade Commission, and a police report filed. Keep copies of all reports. If creditors are demanding payments from parents, alert them of the fraud.
 
 
How common is child identity theft for the purposes of forging passports?
 
1.  Joanne McNabb
 Very little is actually known about the incidence and nature of child identity theft. The only fairly reliable study done to date is from Javelin Strategy and Research (Oct. 2008). It doesn't mention passport or immigration-related ID theft, but it doesn't provide a great deal of detail on the nature of the crime.
 
2.  Howard Davidson
 There is a unit at the U.S. Department of State that investigates passport fraud:http://www.state.gov/m/ds/investigat
 
3.  Howard Davidson
 I have never heard of this nor seen any statistics on it, but I don't doubt it occurs.
 
 
is there an age wne a child is particularly at risk?
 
1.  Howard Davidson
 If the Javelin study is correct, children at ANY age are vulnerable to identity theft, particularly since the thief is not giving the child's actual date of birth, but simply a social security number.
 
 
How can one help pervent ones own children from Identity theft?
 
1.  Joanne McNabb
 Parents can do a lot, but in the current information-driven marketplace, there's no absolute protection. In addition to the general identity theft protection tips for anyone, a parent can check with the credit reporting agencies to determine whether their child has a credit record. An info sheet on how to do this is on our web site at www.privacy.ca.gov/consumer_information_sheet.htm. (The same procedure applies for residents of any state.) If you do find records associated with your child's identity, then after taking steps to clear them up, you can have the credit reporting agencies place a security freeze on your child's file. Ironically, you can only do this if your child has a file, as the result of being a victim of identity theft (or perhaps errors).
 
2.  Linda Foley
 Parents should not divulge their children's SSNs unnecessarily or carry the numbers or the cards in wallets. Ask why a company wants the number and what will happen if it is not provided. Ask if there is an alternate identifier that can be used. Please visit www.idtheftcenter.org for additional information on all areas of child identity theft, even if the person is an adult when they find out. Fact Sheet 120b
 
 
Children and youth in the system of care (residential treatment, foster care, etc.) are at special risk as all of their identifying information follows them through the system and gets touched and viewed by literally hundreds of providers. How do we minimize these threats?
 
1.  Howard Davidson
 By the way, we published an article in February for lawyers who represent young people in foster care, on Protecting and Defending a Young Person in Foster Care from Financial Identity Theft. Feel free to e-mail me to request a copy.
 
2.  Joanne McNabb
 It certainly seems reasonable to believe that these children are at increased risk of identity theft, although there's no real non-anecdotal data to support that belief. A California law that's just being implemented requires counties to pull credit reports on 16-year-olds in foster care and then arrange for remediation assistance when problems are discovered. The California Office of Privacy Protection and the L.A. County Department of Consumer Affairs are just now engaged in a pilot test of this program. We expect to learn a lot about the specific risks for this population and therefore about what can be done to minimize them. In the meantime, there are things that various parties can do to minimize the risk, most involving doing what can be done to protect the child's SSN. It's not easy. We're working with the foster care agencies to develop programs to educate social workers and foster youth in transition.
 
3.  Howard Davidson
 Release of a child's social security number to care providers should be very limited. Foster parents may need the number for their tax returns, but other care providers should have no reason to have to have the SSN.Two states (CA and IL) have laws requiring child welfare agencies to check if foster children have been victims of identity theft, but I know of no state laws requiring this of other system involved children (e.g., children in the juvenile justice system, who are in residential facilities).
 
 
How often does Child identity theft occur?
 
1.  Howard Davidson
 By the way, there's a recent report by the U.S. Department of Justice on Identity Theft Reported by Households. It can be found at: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=2294
 
2.  Howard Davidson
 In October 2008 a study report by Javelin Strategy and Research reported a finding 5 of children in the study had one or more credit reports using their SSN, with 3 being actual victims of identity theft. Often, what may first look like child identity theft may actually be a mistake in credit reporting agency records. By the way, of the 5, 12 were children age 5 or younger. There is no research on this, but it is believed that foster children have a higher rate of identity theft.
 
3.  Joanne McNabb
 See my answer to Tracey below. The Javelin study mentioned there found a 3 rate of identity theft among children, and a 2 file-resulting-from-errors rate (in 2008). In that year the rate for the adult population,also according to Javelin, was 4.3.
 
 
2 questions-if a child is the victim of identity and particularly if it's extensive, what is the procedure for getting a new SSN or is that even possible? Also, what if the identity theft extends to a child ending up on a possible no fly list (ex. a child's boarding pass cannot be printed online-child was also asked if his passport had ever been lost or stolen upon coming back to US when going through customs)is it possible to work with homeland security to address this issue?
 
1.  Joanne McNabb
 1) It isn't generally possible - or even desirable - to get a new SSN as a means of recovering from ID theft. (See our info sheet on SSNs at http://www.privacy.ca.gov/res/docs/pdf/cis4english.pdf). But in some cases, including some child victims, SSA will do this. For more info, see http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10064.html#new.2) As to the no-flywatch list issue, DHS has a traveler redress program (TRIP) that may offer help in the situation you describe. See http://www.dhs.gov/files/programs/gc_1169676919316.shtm.
 
2.  Howard Davidson
 I don't know about the no fly list situation, but as to getting a new SSN:That's difficult to do. If a child in foster care is adopted, it has been recommended that the adoptive parents bring the new birth certificate to the Social Security Office and request the child receive a new SSN, even if the child's name is not changed. I've been informed that if the staff person says no, that a supervisor may then authorize a change in SSNs.
 
 
I have been asked to present on Id Theft & Internet Safety to children ages 8-13. Anything in particular that you think children should be made aware of regarding the internet and Id Theft?
 
1.  Joanne McNabb
 We have lots of educational resources for parents on privacy and identity theft on our Cyber Safety for Children web site: www.cybersafety.ca.gov. I especially recommend the info posted there on Social Networking and Sexting from ConnectSafely.org. We have also developed a PowerPoint (with speaker notes) and a fact sheet on identity theft prevention for teens. It's available on our Identity Theft web page at www.privacy.ca.gov/identity_theft.htm.
 
2.  Linda Foley
 The Federal Trade Commission, onguardonline.gov website, has some great games teaching internet security. Other resources are Teen Space at the ITRC website, StaySafeOnLine.org, connectsafely.org
 
3.  Howard Davidson
 There's a lot of information out there on children and internet safety. For example, at: http://www.netsmartz.org/netparents.htm Children should be told never to give out any identifying information (name, address, date of birth, and NEVER EVER a social security number) on line.
 
 
What is the average amount of time that elapses from the time a child's identity is stolen to the time the identity theft is discovered? What is shte liklihood of catching the thief?
 
1.  Linda Foley
 Based on ITRC's experience, the likelihood of catching the thief depends on who the thief is. If it is a parent or family member, the family has to circle the wagons and help the victim. Unknown perps have been discovered by large crime organization busts lately. Also AZ and UT have been watching for people working using children's SSNs.
 
2.  Joanne McNabb
 Good questions - don't think we have answers yet. See my response to Tom Grinley below for a California program just underway that should give us some good info on foster child identity that that should also be relevant to children in general.
 
 
Are foster care youth more vulnerable to identity theft?
 
1.  andrew marcus
 any person who is under the care of another can be vulnerable to this type of crime. People are selling information because of economic times and because most foster care providers need money they may sell the informatoin
 
2.  Joanne McNabb
 Unknown. See my answer to Tracey, below.
 
3.  Howard Davidson
 We believe so, but more evidence through studies is needed before we're sure.
 
 
Our nonprofit law firm has been exploring a few child id theft cases, including some involving foster youth. In our experience, it has been very difficult to get credit reports for these kids, even with California's state law requiring county social workers to run these reports once a child turns 16. All 3 CRA only accept written requests and some require documentation that isn't always readily available (proof of residence, parent/guardian id). Alternatively, we also worked with youth in guardianship cases where the bio parent is the suspected of stealing the child's id. Any advice in working on cases where the client might not fit into the CRA requirements for requesting reports?
 
1.  Linda
 Written requests with court documentation of address and guardianship by the state or county should suffice, along with the birth certificate. At one point the court or state agency had step in an accept responsibility for the child. Use that
 
2.  Joanne McNabb
 It is indeed a challenge to check a credit report in the situations you describe. My office has been working with the credit reporting agencies for several months on procedures for efficiently implementing the CA law. We're in a pilot test phase right now. We're hoping to have the procedures set up for all three CRAs sometime this fall.
 
3.  Howard Davidson
 If you e-mail me later, I can give you contact information for several lawyers who have handled identity theft cases involving foster youth (neither, however, in California).
 
 
One of the toughest obstacles for an adult/child identity theft victim is filing a police report. Are any states providing sensitivity training to help them reach "I need to watch out for myself" rather than to continue to enable.
 
1.  Howard Davidson
 I understand that if there's police reluctance to accept an identity theft report, that the Federal Trade Commission has a letter they'll provide that explains legal rights of those victimized by identity theft, and the importance of making a police report. Bring that letter along, with a copy of the FTC ID Theft Complaint form.
 
 
Are there any alternatives to filing a police report when trying to correct a child's credit report? We often work with youth clients who are unwilling get their parents in trouble and won't file a police report.
 
1.  Linda Foley
 There are a few alternatives, depending on the age of the child. Please contact ITRC at 888-400-5530 and ask for one of the advisors working on teen cases. We are a nonprofit and do not charge for our help. We may find a way to help.
 
2.  Joanne McNabb
 In California at least, one can often get a police report of identity theft by providing some documentation of the fraudulent accounts/transactions, which wouldn't necessarily involve naming a potential perpetrator. A Californian is entitled to a police report of identity theft in the jurisdiction where heshe resides (CA Penal Code sec. 530.6),The police report is, as I'm sure you know, the key to enjoying the legal rights provided in state and federal laws on identity theft. In the case of a child victim who is younger (e.g. 7 or 8 rather than 16 or 17), we have sometimes found that a creditor will forgive the transaction that the child cannot legally enter into. But not always.
 
3.  Howard Davidson
 I can't speak to alternatives to a police report, but I do note that there's no state mandatory child abuse and neglect reporting law that mentions identity theft (no elder abuse reporting law does so, either). So, there no explicit obligation for professionals to report child identity theft as child maltreatment by a parent.
 
 
Has there been any research or studies on immigrant children who have U.S. social security numbers, but their extended family membes do not? And the potential for identity theft in these communities?
 
1.  Howard Davidson
 I have not seen any research, studies, or news stories about this.
 
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