More than 1M kids had their identities stolen in 2017 — here’s how to protect yours

The saying “It takes a village to raise a child” predates the smartphone era, but it may be just as appropriate when it comes to safeguarding their personal information.

A new report says that more than 1 million kids had their identities stolen in 2017, causing significant financial costs to their families. The findings from Javelin Strategy & Research’s 2018 Child Identity Fraud Study indicate that young ones are the most likely to become victims of new-account fraud.

Study: 1 million children had their ID stolen in 2017

The damage led to $2.6 billion in total losses, including more than $540 million for families, the study said.

Another startling statistic shows that while only 7% of adult fraud victims knew the thieves, more than 60% of child victims knew the perpetrators.

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“Many of these perpetrators have legitimate access to the personal information of victims, and children of any age are not safe,” the report says. “Two-thirds of child identity fraud victims are under the age of 8.”

The study comes on the heels of Javelin’s February report on overall identity theft and fraud in the U.S., which showed that nearly a third of Americans were notified in 2017 of a data breach, up from 12% the previous year. Also, for the first time, Social Security numbers (35%) were compromised more than credit cards (30%) in data breaches, the report said.

The Federal Trade Commission advises that the best way for parents to find out if their child’s identity has been stolen is to check for credit reports in their name. Here’s what to do if you think your child has become a victim of identity theft:

3 signs your child’s ID has been stolen

  • If you or your child is turned down for government benefits because another account is linked to your child’s Social Security number
  • If your child gets a notice from the Internal Revenue Service saying that they owe taxes or their SSN is being used on another return
  • If you get bills for products or services you didn’t receive or if a debt collector calls and asks for your child

What to do if you suspect your child’s ID has been stolen

Money expert Clark Howard says identity thieves often set their sites on children because they’re looking for easy prey. “Criminals target kids because they’re clean slates with clean Social Security numbers,” he writes. Here’s what you should do if you suspect your child is a victim:

Put a credit freeze in place for your child

The three major credit-reporting bureaus have provisions in place for minors to be protected against identity theft. In the case of TransUnion, the agency allows credit freezes only in states that have specific laws on it. But the agency lists on its website the states that have have qualifying provisions for child credit freezes.

Experian has an online Fraud Center that will allow you to see if your child has a credit line. Equifax has instructions online on how to freeze your child’s credit as well.

The FTC recommends doing a credit file check on your child at their 16th birthday. This way, if something is amiss, you still have time to sort it out before they graduate high school and apply for college or perhaps a full-time job.

RELATED: 10 things you must do if your identity is stolen

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