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Special section Child identity theft

Identity thieves are moving past adults and targeting children.

Stolen innocence: Child identity theft

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He and his father learned the person who misused Date's Social Security number had opened a checking account and a savings account at a Wells Fargo in Glendale, Calif. Date filled out the police report but his father says nothing came of it because the crime was in another jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, Date was able to open an account under the same Social Security number. Letters were sent to the man using the same Social Security number to see if he could present the card but he didn't respond, so the bank terminated the account.

"It was total blind luck that I found out through that bank," says Al Date, David's father.

Debating the significance
One of the three credit major bureaus has observed a rise in complaints.

"We have established childidtheft@transunion.com because of the growing problem," says Diane Terry, senior director of the Fraud Victim Assistance Department at TransUnion.

However, some federal officials say the number of people complaining is still small.

"While child identity theft is a very serious issue, it is not occurring at any significant rate," says FTC spokeswoman, Betsy Broder.

Jonathan Lasher, deputy chief counsel to the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration, says cases of misuse of children's numbers are seen from time to time but not at a dramatic rate.

Others disagree.

"We're only seeing the icing on the cake," says Paul Stephens, policy analyst at Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. "There can be a very long time frame between identity theft and discovery, particularly with children."

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., acknowledged the danger to children in a statement issued after she introduced two proposals to give consumers more of a say in how companies buy, sell and market their personal information and to provide more protection for consumers who have had their debit, check cards or card numbers stolen.

"Identity theft and the theft of our personal information is out of control," Clinton says in a written statement. "No one is safe, not even kids and young adults, as identity thieves carry out electronic muggings that can cost people cash and their credit records."

What's being done?
The FTC is taking steps to inform young people about credit through an education campaign. According to Crane, the federal agency has been distributing educational materials about prevention and recovery to teachers and other community leaders.

The Identity Theft Resource Center is working with lawmakers in an attempt to push forward a proposal that would create a list using birth records of all Social Security numbers and birth dates. The list would be provided to repositories, which can not sell, distribute or use it for other purposes, according to the ITRC's 2003 testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee in 2003.

Credit applications submitted with the Social Security number of an individual on the list would be investigated. Once the child reaches adulthood the information would be deleted.

Create a news alert for "identity theft"
-- Posted: Jan. 3, 2007
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