By Jon Delano, KDKA-TV Money Editor
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The last person you’d think would be the victim of identity theft is a child — young and innocent with no independent financial means.
But Zach Friesen had his identity stolen when he was just seven years old so the thief could buy a boat.
“Someone got a hold of my identity, just my social and my name, and then was able to borrow $40,000,” says Friesen.
Zach and his family discovered the theft 10 years later when he applied for college loans.
“Parents need to take this very seriously,” warns Dena Haritos Tsamitis at Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab.
Haritos Tsamitis says lots of children are likely victims of identity theft based on study of more than 42,000 minors.
“Ten percent of those children had become victims of identity theft, and that’s 51 times higher than the rate of identity theft in adults of that same population.”
Protecting your child’s Social Security number is key. Object if your school or doctor or anyone except the IRS ever asks for that number.
“Sometimes when parents sign up their kids for soccer or football, they have to use their Social Security number and it just creates a vulnerability there for their child,” says Haritos Tsamitis.
And check to see if your child has a credit report. He or she should have none at all — or Zach Friesen’s experience could be yours.
“My credit score is very very bad, as you can imagine $40,000 worth of debt over the course of 10 years could do,” says Friesen. “Now when I cleared my name, that didn’t clear the negative score that I got.”
Besides doing a periodic credit monitoring check to make sure your child has no credit score at all, unsolicited mail to your child for loans or credit cards is a big red flag that his or her identity is at risk.
Bottom line, with one out of 10 children possible victims, every parent needs to be vigilant.