Study: 1 Million American Children Hit By Identity Theft In 2017

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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More than 1 million U.S. children were victims of identity fraud in 2017, according to a study published Tuesday by Javelin Strategy & Research.

The criminal act, which is often thought to affect only adults, may have led to $2.6 billion in total losses, and $540 million in “out-of-pocket costs to families,” the 2018 Child Identity Fraud Study claims.

“The limited financial histories of minors give fraudsters a long-term opportunity to slowly develop networks of accounts, mimicking legitimate holdings,” a press release from Javelin reads.

“Child identity fraud is a serious problem and is frequently overlooked as the public focuses on high-profile breaches involving the personally identifiable information of adults,” said Al Pascual, senior vice president of research and head of fraud & security at Javelin. “Child identity fraud has unique characteristics that make it particularly hard to prevent, though there are steps that parents and guardians can take to help keep children safe.”

One of those aforementioned distinctive qualities is that youthful victims of fraud know the perpetrator 60 percent of the time, while only 7 percent of adults have any such familiarity. And two-thirds of child identity theft victims are under the age of eight.

“Because children are less likely to have their own debit or credit cards, existing-card fraud (ECF) is comparatively rare,” the press release continues. “This stands in marked contrast to identity fraud among adults, where ECF dominates the fraud landscape. While adults are most frequently targeted for the value of their account – the funds available for immediate theft from a checking account or credit card – minors are targeted for the value of their identity.”

A former convict was arrested in early April of 2017 and sentenced months later to more than two years in jail for stealing the identity of a deceased child for more than two decades. After escaping from a Texas halfway house in 1996, now-prosecuted Jon Vincent reportedly traveled to a cemetery to find a tombstone showing someone born around the same time as him.

The man who resided in Pennsylvania eventually obtained personal information from a two-month-old baby who passed away in 1972, acquiring a Social Security card under the deceased’s name. Police said that he was even issued a driver’s license under the infant’s identity, and was able to officially, albeit fraudulently, marry and divorce.

The aunt of that baby discovered the act of fraud after figuring out her lineage by visiting, a genealogy service and database. The name of her departed nephew appeared with a “green” leaf icon, meaning public records indicated he was alive. (RELATED: Facial Recognition Technology Helps NY Law Enforcement Catch 100 Identity Thieves)

Vincent ultimately pleaded guilty to Social Security fraud and aggravated identity theft. He is just one of many examples of a problem seemingly growing in concurrence with the growth of technology and digital interconnectivity.

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