Tim Rohrbaugh, Chief Experience Officer at Identity Guard, shares information on why children are at risk of identity theft from the Anthem Health security breach.
In all the noise around the stolen customer data at Anthem Healthcare, many have missed what is now a new and very serious risk to American households. For the first time, as far as we can tell at Identity Guard, millions of children's social security numbers have been stolen and will be used in waves of financial crimes over decades to come.
Anthem Healthcare somehow needed to collect their customers' children's names and social security numbers to verify the beneficiaries of their health plans. What Anthem should have done thereafter would be to destroy this sensitive information, which currently only resides in two other places in the world - with the U.S. Social Security Administration (the issuer of the SSN's) and with the Internal Revenue Service (needed for parents to claim tax credits for their dependents).
The massive information security blunder at Anthem, where the SSN's were stored insecurely, has exposed this data to the world's cyber criminals and brings the risk of financial fraud to US families to a new high.
Why is the Anthem breach a watershed event for children's identity protection? This is the first major breach of children's names, Social Security numbers and birthdates, running into the tens of millions of data elements. Second, the information that was stolen, particularly pertaining to children, was directly linked with that of their parents. This link will make it much easier for cybercriminals to perpetrate fraud using the children's stolen data.
Children, for obvious reasons, do not have established credit files or financial identities. The theft of parent's data describing their financial identities - full names, SSN's, home addresses and such, directly linked with the full names, SSN's and home addresses of their children, makes for a catastrophic event for the children. Children are essentially more vulnerable to identity theft because they have no established credit or identity records. Children are in effect "off the grid" when it comes to financial information. Add to this that the cyber criminals now have an "on the grid" related record in the parents information and you have a fatal combination.
Criminals will use the combined parent and children data to create new "Synthetic ID's", as the experts call them. Synthetic ID's take information from multiple identities and combine them to create a new fake identity. Why are your children great targets for cyber criminals? They are great targets for cyber criminals wishing to steal money because children do not have any existing and verifiable information with which to refute the Synthetic ID. Children have no established financial records or information that can tell banks and other financial service companies "Hey, this application or transaction doesn't look right". And now for the really bad part, most children won't even find out that they been victimized until they are an adult and start to establish credit, which could be decades hence. When they do reach that state, they will find that their credit history is scarred beyond recognition and it will take many months and substantial resource to rectify.
Identity Guard has the following advice for all US parents. Parents should be vigilant in protecting their children's SSN's and other personal information. Does the local soccer league really need Joanie's SSN? The answer is "No"! Parents should be on the lookout for marketing offers (via email or mail) addressed to their children. This is an early warning sign that the child's identity may already have been stolen by cyber criminals and is in use somewhere in the US. For older children, parents should speak with their children about the breach, explain the risks, and ask for their help in looking out for anything that seems suspicious.
Parents should seriously consider enrolling their children in a service to monitor their identities. In choosing an identity guard service, parents should take care and only choose a service that does not create a credit record for their child in the enrollment process, and it is important to note that traditional credit monitoring does not work because a minor is unable to be installed. Creating a credit record is what a cyber-criminal will do when creating a Synthetic ID. Identity Guard's KidSure child monitoring is the most unobtrusive way for child monitoring and provides the best protection available in the market. Visit our website at www.identityguard.com/kidsure to better understand the risks and solutions.
It's a scary world in cyberspace and it just got even scarier for a lot of children in America, including yours. The U.S. need regulation and consequences for corporations that do not protect the data we have trusted them to protect. But more importantly, do they really need to keep all that data? Forever? And how about requiring all issued SSNs to minors be restricted from certain forms of use in the Financial sector.