www.CUNA.org/newsnow (8/4/10) Identity thieves are beginning to steal the Social Security numbers of children, long before they're ready for a savings or checking account or a credit score -- and that could threaten the nation's credit system, said an Associated Press report (TheSunNews.com Aug. 3).
The thefts could be a problem for financial institutions because they rely on credit reports from FICO, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. But those reports could contain false information, planted by people who use stolen Social Security numbers to piggyback on the credit of someone else, according to Kansas City law enforcement agents.
In the fraud, online businesses use computers to locate dormant Social Security numbers, usually of children or long-term prison inmates who don't use them. The companies sell the numbers under another name to people who establish phony credit and run up huge debts without intending to pay.
The sellers skirt the law by referring to the Social Security numbers as "credit privacy numbers" or CPNs. They are also called "credit profile numbers" and "credit protection numbers."
Julie Jensen, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's office in Kansas City, discovered the scheme and says it is easy to create a false credit score using the CPNs, said the article.
The crooks have years to use the numbers before the child is old enough to apply for credit. That makes the fraud difficult to detect, and authorities can't estimate how prevalent the practice is.
Check the credit reports of your children on a regular schedule, or when you check your own. You can pull the reports free of charge by visiting www.AnnualCreditReport.com. We suggest rotating the three major credit bureaus - Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian - so that you can pull one free report each four months. Report any fraudulent or incorrect items to the credit bureaus. If you think you or your child may have been a victim of Identity Theft, download the Federal Trade Commission's ID Theft Affidavit from our website and follow the instructions. You may also file a complaint online. For more information, visit the FTC's website on Identity Theft or www.FTC.gov.