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article image7-year-old boy's identity stolen, child ID theft on the rise

By Leigh Goessl     May 23, 2012 in Crime
Today's society is seeing an increased occurrence of identity thefts. It is bad enough when it happens to an adult, but what about the children whose identities are being claimed by thieves at an alarmingly growing rate?
WFMY News is reporting a father recently discovered the identity of his 7-year-old son was stolen. He had stumbled upon this realization when he filed his taxes this year.
Derek Jones, a father of two, emailed the network with his story. The family lives in North Carolina.
According to WFMY, Jones and his ex-wife alternate years to claim their 7-year-old son on annual taxes. This year was Jones' turn to claim and when his accountant was doing his taxes, he found Jones could not list his son as a dependent because that identity had already been claimed on another individual's return.
"They told me that they couldn't do it unless I took his name off because somebody had already used his social security number for their filing," said Jones.
Investigation showed Jones' ex-wife didn't claim their son either.
While losing out on the $4,000 he would have gotten back as a return is an issue, Jones is more concerned about the information that was taken.
"He's only seven. It's not like he's got bank accounts or money or anything, but that's not even the issue. They know where he lives, and they've just got all of his information right there," Jones said.
Unfortunately, Jones' situation is not an isolated issue. NPR reported young Carter Andrushko is another identity theft victim. In fact, the 5-year-old boy is listed by the Utah Dept. of Workforce Services as already having a job. Amazingly, he's been in this position since before he was born, NPR reported. Carter's social security number was being used.
Authorities were contacted, and eventually the identity thief was caught in Carter's case, but according to reports, many cases are not so lucky. Children identities are a "hot" commodity, say experts. The reason being those Social Security Numbers are "clean" and, in some instances, the theft may not be detected for years. One report cited 10.2 percent of children had their Social Security number used by someone else, indicating identity theft of children is 51 times the rate for adults.
The Identity Theft Resource Center shares some other ways people often learn a child's identity was stolen. These include pre-approved credit card offers, bills or bank statements received in a child's name, collection agencies calling about accounts in the child's name, a teen is blocked from obtaining a driver's license due to their Social Security Number already being in use, or law enforcement showing up at the house with a warrant. Parents may even discover the theft when trying to open up a savings account or college fund for their child.
A recent NBC report also highlights the issue of child identity theft. According to NBC, this crime is "one of the fastest growing crimes in America."
The Better Business Bureau offers parents some tips on how to decrease the likelihood of a child's identity being stolen, including not carrying a Social Security Card around, shredding documents, keeping track of what entities maintain the personal information of children, using privacy settings on social network accounts and monitoring the online activity of children.
Identity theft is a major headache for those who have been impacted, and also is costly for victims. NBC reported child identity theft costs families $13 billion each year.
More about child identity theft, Identity theft, stolen id, Theft, Social security number