Although there are a lot of laughs in the new movie "Identity Thief," this comedy should also be a wake-up call to Americans about the ever-present threat of identity fraud, which the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates affects roughly 9 million Americans every year. Because of the androgynous name of Jason Bateman's character Sandy, the so-called identity thief, played by Melissa McCarthy, is able to keep up the ruse and use Sandy's good credit to finance her lavish lifestyle.
You don't have to have a misleading name to be the victim of identity theft, however. In reality, an identity theif might not even need to know your name in order to destroy your credit score.
Many identity thieves actually look to steal the identities of small children who have never opened up a line of credit in their own name before. Unlike Sandy, who is your average, middle-aged family man, the ideal candidate for identity theft is actually someone with a blank credit report.
A blank credit history is ideal for thieves
The piece of information identity thieves value most is an individual's Social Security number (SSN). The SSN of a person with no credit history can be used to open up an account under any name as most lenders don't verify the name of an SSN if there isn't an existing credit history. This means that a thief could use their own name, or even a fake identity, with a child's SSN to ring up debt and ruin the credit score attached to that number. If that theft isn't detected, this debt may surprise the victim when they apply for their first loan or credit card years after the theft has been committed.
Not all victims look like Jason Bateman
The new movie may inspire parents to take steps to protect themselves from identity theft, but they should extend that protection to everyone in their household — even younger children. Although the movie may be top-notch entertainment, identity theft is clearly not a laughing matter, especially when it involves children.
By enrolling the entire family into an identity monitoring service, parents will be alerted to any peculiar activity that might be taking place under their child's name. The FTC reports that this is the fastest growing demographic for identity theft — not middle-aged men like Sandy.