Child identity theft is a growing crime - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Child identity theft is a growing crime

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A Virginia Senate committee passed new identity theft legislation Monday.

Virginia Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn proposed the legislation along with Delegate Scott Surovell.

Filler-Corn tells WSLS it would enable parents to freeze their children's credit or the credit of any incapacitated person so thieves couldn't steal their identity and potentially rack up thousands of dollars in debt. The bill now goes to the full senate for a vote.

"They said he was employed and he was 13 there's no way," said Christy McDaniel who is fighting for her son Devon.

McDaniel says a few years ago someone was using his social security number for work.

"I don't want him to go out when he's 18 and not be able to do anything or have any good credit because somebody's broke into his identity and used it. It's not fair to him and it makes me mad," said McDaniel.   

Devon is just one of the thousands of victims of child identity theft, a growing problem.

According to a study from Javelin Strategy and Research one in 40 families with children under 18 had at least one child with compromised personal info.

"Children have what the credit issuers considered to be clean credit. In other words they've never applied for credit before, they don't have good credit or bad credit, they have clean credit which makes them very attractive to criminals," said Robert Chappell who has been in law enforcement for almost three decades, recently testified about the crime in front of Virginia lawmakers and wrote Child Identity Theft, What Every Parent Needs to Know.

"Criminals want to target them at the earliest age possible particularly at birth if they can get the information because they can use it possibly for up to 17 to 18 years without discovery," said Chappell, a Virginia State Police Captain.

Another problem is parents putting bills in their child's name which is also a crime.

"Roughly 27% of all identity theft in relation to children is done by parents and while we say 27% I don't think we can actually pinpoint it because most children when they find out about it are reluctant to turn in their parents," said Chappell.

There are many ways thieves can get your information. They can piece it together from multiple sources like medical records, school records and your trash. They can use the child's identity and just change their birth year to make them an adult.

"The sooner you notice that the better off you are at resolving the issues," said Chappell. "Parents need to educate themselves if you understand the crime you look for the signs and symptoms."

There are signs to look for like your child starts getting credit card offers or phone calls from businesses.

What can you do to prevent child identity theft? Protect social security numbers. Don't carry that info with you on a daily basis and instead keep it locked up somewhere.

"Every time you put that number out there you're putting yourself at risk," said Julie Wheeler, the President of the Better Business Bureau serving Western Virginia.

Wheeler says don't list children's numbers on any forms including medical ones.

"If you see that on the form that you're filling out don't provide the child social security number. If they come back and say I need it, why do you need it? How are you storing it? How are you protecting it? How are you using it and how do I know it's not going to be compromised?" said Wheeler who adds you need to talk to your kids about social media, the Internet and surveys. "I don't think a lot of kids realize the risks involved. We think ‘oh yeah this is good I'll just respond to this survey, fill out all this information and provide all the stuff'. Adults are bad about it but kids are really bad about it because they've never known anything different and they haven't seen the fallout."

The Better Business Bureau serving Western Virginia will be answering phones at our phone bank from 5-6:30 p.m. Call 1-866-975-7697

From 6-6:30 p.m. on the WSLS facebook page Chappell will answer questions along with Equifax Personal Solutions who offers credit monitoring and identity theft protection.

You'll find the discussion on our WSLS facebook page just search WSLS.

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