(NEW YORK) — Children are increasingly becoming the preferred target of identity thieves, authorities say.
“We’ve seen children have this crime begin as early as five months old and then it goes on for years,” said Bo Holland, founder and CEO of All Clear ID, a company that offers basic identity theft protection to consumers.
“A parent will typically find out when their child is moving into adulthood,” Holland added. “When they are about to go to college, they apply for that first loan and, boom, they get denied.”
In the last three years, there have been 57,000 cases of child identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission. A new report from All Clear ID estimates that one in 10 U.S. children are victims.
Criminals can hack home computers in search of tax forms with a child’s Social Security number. They also can target hospitals, child-welfare agencies and even schools.
“They’ll use your child’s Social Security number with a different name and a different birth date,” Holland said. “So if you pull a credit report, the credit report is looking for a specific name and the birthday that goes with it. And so you won’t find it. You’ll get ‘file not found,’ and you’ll feel safe.”
“The problem is large and growing,” said David Vladeck, the FTC’s director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Part of the problem is it’s undetected and undetectable.”
Authorities advise parents to:
— Make sure you have antivirus software installed on your home computer.
— Tell your children never to give out their Social Security number without your permission.
— Check your children’s credit periodically, even when they are under age.
“Parents need to understand that there are measures they can take to safeguard their children’s identity,” said Vladeck. ”Parents should think about protecting their children’s identity, and the Social Security number is absolutely the foundation there.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio