Child identity theft is a very real problem. Children are attractive targets for this crime, since their credit, employment and criminal histories are clean.
There is definitely a threat from other people stealing your child’s identity; your new baby arrives and a few days later someone who claims to be from the hospital calls, asking for the child’s Social Security number because you forgot to give them this information in your excitement.
The problem, of course, is that the call wasn’t from the hospital; it was from somebody who saw the birth announcement in the newspaper and saw an opportunity.
However, the biggest risk to your child’s identity isn’t strangers. Most child identity theft is committed by parents and family members who have easy access to the child’s personal information.
Most of the time, these parents are facing unemployment, poverty and generally stacked odds. They figure they’ll just use the child’s information to qualify for an apartment or telephone service—just this one time—and they’ll make it all better by the time the kid grows up.
Of course, that’s not how it usually plays out. The parent gets an apartment or automobile they can’t actually afford and starts to fall behind. They apply for a few credit cards in the child’s name, just to make purchases for essentials until they get back on their feet, which never happens. By the time a few years have passed, the situation has snowballed and the child’s credit is ruined, along with any trust the child ever felt for his or her parent.
It’s a fact: on this day in 2009, a lot of people are struggling to make ends meet. In fact, no matter when you’re reading this, a lot of people are having a hard time getting by, and you might be one of them. It can be very tempting to use your child’s personal information in times like this.
However, please remember these points:
- Any use of your child’s information to obtain credit, services or employment for yourself is identity theft
- Stealing your child’s identity is a crime; plenty of parents have gone to jail for it
- Don’t think you’re going to “make it all better” before the child gets older—it never really works out that way (and it’s a crime, too, remember?)
- You do not own your children, they are not your property to do with as you please, and their future creditworthiness is theirs, not yours
- Don’t think your child won’t press charges when they find out about your crime. How do you think those parents in #2 above ended up in prison?
- Yes, they’re going to find out. They always find out.
I’m being pretty blunt here—I don’t even like to see greedy adults get swindled when they should know better; I really hate to see children being victimized by the people they should be able to trust above all others.
Your situation might be tough right now, but time is going to pass and life is going to move forward, and what is happening now will one day be what happened years ago. You will only make things worse by committing identity crime against your own child—financially, and by making sure your child never wants to see you again once he or she is grown.
I’m sure some would protest my harsh words here, “You’ve never been broke,” someone might say. “You don’t know what it’s like. You do what you have to do in order to survive.”
And they would be right. I’ve never been truly destitute before. I still don’t buy the excuse, though. There are ways to get by without stealing your own child’s identity. You’re being lazy and not thinking if that’s the only route you can fathom.