Identity thieves targeting kids according to UT researchers

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Imagine a child applying for a college loan only to find out they are hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt because someone stole their identity when they were younger. It turns out identity theft is a growing issue for children and that’s why on Tuesday the University of Texas’ Center for Identity is helping parents protect their kids with new tips they call IDWise.

Researchers at the Center say studies show children are targeted 35 times more often than adults in having their identity stolen – like their social security numbers because the chances of a parent running a credit check on a child are pretty slim. Meaning parents likely wouldn’t know for years if their child’s identity is being stolen – and the criminal can use it for years. That’s why the Center for Identity is putting out a new resource to parents and small businesses on proactive steps to take right now to make sure citizens do not become a victim of identity theft.

Researchers at the center say most kids have their social security numbers stolen as a result of a data breach at a doctor’s office, school, or sports league.

Here are some warning signs:
-If a child is getting credit card offers in the mail.
-When applying for government benefits and see a child’s social security number was used to apply for something else.
-Parents can also run a credit report on their child. They shouldn’t have one because a person only has a credit report once they have applied for credit.

“You need to give your social security number when you are filing your taxes but there is not a mandate that you have to give it to anyone else. Especially places like your sports leagues, definitely ask whether or not your school needs it. You need to ask how they are going to use it and how they are going to protect it,” said Katie Stephens, Education Program Manager, Center for Identity.

For small businesses like Wondercide. a natural pest control company in North Austin, they are looking to these tips as a way to train new employees. Even though the vendors they contract their website sales through secure customer’s information, they believe you never can be too careful.
“We have to have policies in place to ensure that we are shutting down computers at night, we are logging off of all software, and when people take their computers home they are following proper procedures from there,” said Laura Alter, Head of Marketing at Wondercide.

The Center for Identity found businesses with fewer than 100 employees are the most susceptible to identity theft.

“I think they are so susceptible because they can’t have an information security officer on their staff and so our hope is the IDWise project will become the virtual ISO for small business folks,” said Stephens.

Click here for a link to the Center for Identity’s tips.

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