Children becoming victims to identity theft, what you can do to protect your child

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – In the age of digital technology, your personal information can be breached it seems at any time.

In North Carolina alone, the State Attorney General’s office reports since 2005, more than 6.5 million people have been affected by hackers. That’s 70-percent of residents in North Carolina.

But, what about your children? Hundreds of thousands become victims of identity theft every year and often times, they don’t know until it’s too late.

“You don’t really think about stuff like that until it happens to you,” said Victoria Artis, a mother. She’s a mother of four, young children and, like any other parent, she has her worries. Back in March, a new concern came up with her oldest daughter who fell victim to a thief. “It was initially her dad that tried to carry her on his taxes,” said Artis. “They informed us that someone else has carried her and had her social security number.”

At only six years old, Taliyah Artis’ social security number had been stolen and her family didn’t know how, who did it, or just how much damage had been done.

“I really don’t care who did it. I just want to get it resolved,” Victoria said.

Sadly, Taliyah is not alone. Among the 17.6 million Americans whose identities were stolen in 2014, are a growing number of children. In fact, one in 40 families with children under 18 had at least one child whose personal information was compromised.

The survey also revealed that identity thieves target children because they seldom have the credit histories that adults do like credit cards, bank accounts, licenses and financial statements, making it easier to create what they call synthetic identities, using a child’s social security number with a different date of birth to avoid detection.

It’s an issue that North Carolina’s Attorney General’s Office is all too familiar with.

“Since identity theft has been a problem, child identity theft has been a problem,” said Kim D’Arruda, a special deputy general. She said most families will never know there’s a problem until their child is old enough to make major purchases, which in some cases can be more than 10 years after the damage has already been done. “If it’s buying a car and your child is five, it’s probably not that hard to show your child is buying a car.”

But, the process of proving your child’s ID has been compromised isn’t always easy to prove.

That’s why the State AG’s office joined dozens of other states in passing a law that allows parents of children under the age of 16 set up a protected consumer security freeze on their child’s credit.

“Ideally, you don’t want them to have a credit report as a child, but if you happen to check them and you find they do have one, you can freeze that and prevent any further access,” D’Arruda added.

For many parents like Victoria, it’s only the first steps of a process that could take years to repair.

“We were shocked. It was kinda scary because we keep all of their information in a secure place, so my main concern was how did they get into her information,” Victoria explained.

Finding out how someone gained access little Taliya’s social security number is still a mystery to her mom and dad. One that for some families can never be solved.

D’Arruda said when you hear about those security breaches, pay attention to them to find out what type of information was exposed to hackers.

Most times, you hear simply about credit cards or debit card information being stolen, but when it comes to things like your insurance company being breached, your entire family’s information is a part of that. Beneficiary information is exposed, and that can mean your children’s social security numbers too.

If you start receiving pre-approved credit card letters in your child’s name, that’s a huge clue that something’s wrong. Filing a police report can help prove fraud has actually taken place.

Several police departments have an entire division dedicated to working on identity theft, which is a felony if you’re caught stealing someone’s information.

You can check this link to find out more information about how to freeze children’s credit.

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