Research

Javeling Strategy & Research
Child Identity Theft Study
October 2008

Executive Summary

Rarely do parents or guardians consider the possibility that their child may have a credit history with thousands of dollars in debt, and thus few will check to see whether their child has a credit report under their name. This can make children easy targets for identity thieves, who are able to capitalize on misusing a child’s personal identifying information for much longer periods of time. As a result, the fraudulent use of a child’s information can wreak havoc on his or her financial future, potentially leading to the denial of credit, student loans, housing or employment at a time when that child may need it the most.

Children can experience problems ranging from a wrong name associated with their social security number, or to more serious cases of actual financial fraud, such as a foreclosed mortgage listed under their credit history. While the problem of child identity theft is still not fully understood by consumers, government or industry professionals, this paper seeks to explore the means, impact and resolution of child identity theft.

The Child Identity Theft Study analyzes cases of child identity theft as well as discrepancies in public data for 500 children. Key findings of the study are as follows:

  • The study discovered 5% of the children had one or more credit reports using their social security number (SSN), and 54% of those children were victims of identity theft.
  • Among those 5%, the children had on average $12,779 in fraudulent or wrongly assigned debt.
  • While the study found that children were more likely to find problems in their credit histories as they aged, an astonishing 12% of those with problems were age 5 and under.
  • A handful of cases stand out as especially severe: one child had seven identities listed under his SSN, with several thousand dollars in medical bills, apartment rentals, and credit accounts in collections; another child’s SSN was associated with over $325,000 in debt.
  • One in four victims in the study has bills or lines of credit in collections or foreclosure, while almost two-thirds of these children had fake or wrong names listed under their SSN.
  • 42% of those children with erroneous credit reports only had credit files at one credit bureau, meaning their fraud could have gone unnoticed without checking all three.
  • For 62% of the children in this study, an SSN was attached to a different identity and the child will not be able to use his or her SSN until the discrepancy is resolved.

Download the full research report here.