Identity theft: Criminals increasingly target children’s identities

From the Chicago Tribune (7/21/09)
By Mandy Locke, McClatchy/Tribune news

RALEIGH, N.C. — – Diamond Daye is an 11-year-old girl who spends her summer days at basketball camp and roaming the mall with her dad.

To creditors and utility companies, though, she’s a 31-year-old woman who owes thousands in rent and cell phone and cable bills.

Diamond is one of a growing number of children whose identities have been stolen by adults. Credit rating bureaus and utility companies say they are seeing more and more adults misusing children’s identities.

Identity theft in general is an underreported crime, particularly thefts involving family members. In 2005, the Federal Trade Commission said that about 400,000 children had their identities misused; a spokesman for credit rating bureau Experian said experts estimate that number crept beyond a half-million in 2008.

The ploy is tempting: Adults with mangled credit histories can create fraudulent identities and appear to have spotless records. The scheme can go unnoticed for years, and often young adults discover it when they apply for college loans or their first apartment. The problem can haunt them well into adulthood.

“Bad guys love to get a child’s Social Security number,” said Demitra Wilson, director of public relations for Equifax, one of three national credit rating bureaus. “For many, they’ve got a free pass for 18 years.”

In the last few years, the credit rating bureaus adopted rules to enable a parent or the courts to act on behalf of a child whose identity was abused, Wilson said. Companies now sell computer-based programs to help parents shield their child’s identity.

Darwin Daye, Diamond’s father, got word from another relative last fall that his daughter’s identity was being misused. Since then, he’s been on a mission to clear his daughter’s name.

“I want to see from front to back what’s on Diamond’s Social Security number and her name,” he said. “This is my daughter’s future. It’s no minor matter.”


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