According to NBC News, tens of millions of children had their Social Security numbers, birth dates and healthcare identification numbers stolen in the recent breach.
“This is a watershed event,” Identity Guard’s own chief experience officer, Tim Rohrbaugh told NBC. “There is no other bulk acquisition of this much personal data – names, birth dates, addresses and Social Security numbers – that I am aware of in history.”
All of this information can be used against children in the same way it can be used against adults, including tax, credit and medical fraud.
In fact, children are even more at risk for identity theft than their adult counterparts, because criminals prefer using information from a yet-to-be-established credit history to help minimize their chances of being found out. Minors shouldn’t have credit reports unless they’ve become the victims of an identity theft crime, and this pristine record makes it easier for thieves to gain credit and operate without detection for years. Many children who experience id theft don’t realize it until they apply for student loans after they turn 18.
“They will always take the child over the adult,” said security consultant Frank Abagnale to NBC reporters. “And the younger the child is the better, because they have longer to use that identity before someone finds out.”
So, even infants are at risk if their information was exposed in the Anthem breach. Additionally, children’s information is connected with their parent’s data, since the parents are still legally responsible for the medical care of their children. This makes the entire family more vulnerable to crime.
For parents who have children with compromised personal information, the best thing to do is detect any crime as early as possible. Here are some ways you can be proactive in identity protection for your children:
- Check credit reports: Make sure you monitor your credit reports for foreign activity, and check that your children don’t have a credit line open in their name. If you haven’t applied for benefits using your children’s names or gotten them credit cards under your account, then they shouldn’t have credit files at all. If they do, that’s a strong sign that they have become the victim of a crime.
- Look for warning signs: Be on high alert for any warnings that your child’s identity may have been stolen. For instance, you might receive collection calls for debts incurred in your child’s name or mailings to your child for credit card applications or jury duty. You could also receive insurance bills and IRS notices for your child — these are all signs that a crime may have occurred.
- Monitor existing accounts: If your child has any financial accounts, such as college savings or Treasury savings bonds, be sure to monitor the monthly statements so you can immediately detect any signs of fraud.
By protecting your children’s identities, you’re protecting their futures. Stay on the lookout for signs of identity theft so your children can eventually apply for loans and start adult life with the clean slates they deserve.