Identity theft remains a significant issue for many consumers, with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service calling it the fastest growing crime in the country. However, officials say a growing trend has been identity theft involving children.
In most identity theft cases, consumers may notice something is amiss when looking at their credit report. However, for children, who generally don't have credit reports because credit bureaus don't maintain files on those under the age of 18 who can't enter into business contracts, the crime can go unnoticed for longer periods of time.
One mother told NPR that she first noticed that her son's social security number had been used improperly when she applied for Medicare assistance. She was finally able to get the false information removed with the help of state officials.
"Kids don't know they're … victims," Utah Assistant Attorney General Richard Hamp told NPR. "Their parents don't know they're … victims, because they're not out there engaging in credit transactions. They're not going to know that someone's opened a credit line using their number, so child identity theft can permeate for years before it's ever discovered."
Many children have been impacted by the issue. A recent study by Carnegie Mellon University actually found that of the 42,000 children whose data was reviewed, 10 percent had someone else using their social security numbers for some other purpose.
Experts say annual checking not necessary
While child identity theft is an issue, many experts told MSNBC that it would be overkill if parents wanted to check their children's credit reports on an annual basis, and that every few years should be sufficient.
In addition, when children approach the age of 16 or are close to applying for some kind of credit, parents can pull their children's full reports.
However, if the reports do reveal any unfair marks or other issues, then there should be sufficient time to work with a credit repair company to fix the issue before it impacts college financial aid or anything else. However, if a young child received credit card offers or other suspicious mail, then it may be time to take earlier action.