Most of us in law enforcement associate identity theft with some unscrupulous person going through our trash and stealing social security numbers, bank account numbers, dates of birth, etc,, and then using that information to apply for new credit cards. Once the cards arrive the bad guys max them out, thus ruining our credit. Pretty standard stuff. Banks, LE agencies and credit unions have done a great job in educating the public on what to look for to prevent the fraud from occurring, and ameliorating the impact once the theft has happened.
What most of us do not know is that child identity theft if the fastest growing type of identity theft. Of the 10 million people affected by this crime each year, more than 500,000 are children, and half of that number are less than six years old.
How and why does this happen? That’s what Robert P. Chappell, Jr. wanted to know. Bob is a highly decorated 27-year law enforcement officer who was assigned to investigate and supervise fraud cases. He identified an uptick in the amount of identity theft cases in which children were the victims. Not having much experience in this burgeoning crime, Bob sought out books on the subject to help guide his investigations. Long story short—he was unable to find anything published at either the local bookstores or library.
Being a responsible resourceful cop, Bob knew he had to do something, and so he took on the task of writing a book on the subject. The result was a comprehensive work titled: Child Identity Theft: What Every Parent Needs To Know (Rowman and Littlefield). Through research and working with the victims, Bob was able to create a one of a kind book to educate LE, parents, educators, medical professionals and a myriad of other institutions that care for our children.
The book is a concise primer, organized in a unique format consisting of 99 questions and answers. It’s laid out in eight parts, beginning with “Understanding Child Identity Theft, and progressing to “How to prevent it.” There is also a listing of further resources for investigators and/or parents.
I found the book to be a gold mine on a subject most people are not even aware exists until too late. Typically, child identity theft remains undetected until the victims are older. It’s not until the grown child attempts to get a driver’s license, credit card, or applies for college loans and jobs, that they discover their identity has been stolen and their credit ruined. Unfortunately, trying to resolve the problem after many years have passed, becomes much more difficult and time-consuming than if the problem was discovered quickly.
Some of the important topics covered in Bob’s book:
- Which children are at a higher risk for identity theft
- The increasing number of child identity thefts perpetrated by parents and relatives
- Hidden techniques thieves use to gain children’s identities and personal information
- The many forms child identity theft can take
- How a loophole in the national credit reporting system allows criminals to target innocent children for their creditworthiness
If you are a parent of young children, Chapter 6 is a must read. It begins with Question #80: “What Are The Top Ten Mistakes Parents Make That Contribute To Child Identity Theft?” This section will be an eye-opener, and cause you to realize how careless most parents are with their children’s personal information. We unwittingly make the ID thieves’ job much easier.
Our children’s identities are unbelievably vulnerable due to the manner in which Social Security numbers are issued, as well as how births and deaths are recorded and announced. It’s simple for a thief to discover a child’s SS number and create a new identity. What’s more, the bad guys avoid detection for years, since unlike adults, a child never checks their credit scores, bank accounts and other financial statements.