Today Show Uncovers Baby Identity Theft
A TODAY Show/NBC investigation into child identity theft revealed that criminals routinely use a child’s untouched credit record to their advantage and get away with it for years or decades. This story shows how in more and more cases Social Security numbers are being stolen even before the child has been born.
Why is it so easy? Because Social Security numbers are not assigned randomly, meaning that they can predicted with a certain amount of accuracy. A SSN is simply a code that includes the location and date of where and when a baby was born. Thieves have figured out a system to predict these numbers and used them before they have been issued. The federal government maintains that in the next month or so, these numbers will be randomized and harder to predict and therefore, steal.
Once a thief gains access to a legitimate Social Security number, they are able to take out car loans, mortgages and credit cards combining their name with the stolen number. Many banks don’t verify that the name and Social Security number match up because it costs them a few extra pennies. That is exactly how a woman was able to buy a home in my name, because the bank didn’t verify that the SSN belonged to me, not to her.
The investigation included 9 year old Riley, whose identity was stolen 11 years before she was born and used to take out home and auto loans. A 2-year old had thousands in credit card debt. Most parents have no idea that this crime is happening to their child until many years after the crime, at which point it is too late.
Here’s what you should do:
- Immediately run a credit check on all of your children.
- If you find suspicious activity (for most children, this would be any activity), investigate it further and dispute it with both the credit-giving organization and the three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion).
- Once you have resolved the credit errors, consider freezing your child’s credit so that no one else has access to their profile without a password.
Police often act overwhelmed and don’t want to be bothered with financial crimes, so little is done even if law enforcement knows exactly where the imposters live. TODAY showed this in dramatic fashion, hunting down two alleged child imposters and capturing their comments on camera.