STOCKTON (CBS13) — Corrie Vaughn looks like any 12-year-old, but the sixth-grader who takes out the trash and fills the sugar bowl to earn an allowance is seen as a deadbeat in the eyes of creditors who claim he owes $1,100.
“I don’t know what credit is, but I know it’s not good to have bad credit,” he said.
Corrie is just one of a half-million kids who will learn this year their identities have been stolen. A thief tricked the creditors into issuing credit in Corrie’s name putting him in debt. His grandmother is concerned for his future.
“How is he ever going to have his own home if he can’t get his credit through?” his grandmother Jeanine Vaughn asks.
Corrie has been in the foster system, which experts say increases his chance of his personal information being exposed.
Joanne McNabb, the Director of Privacy Education and Policy for the Attorney General’s office says crooks steal kids’ social security numbers because the theft can go undetected for up to 18 years.
“They’re very appealing because identity thieves can hide behind a child’s credit records because they’re not checked,” she said.
She says thieves steal the information from places like schools, insurance and medical offices.
Virginia State Police Officer Robert Chappell wrote “Child Identity Theft, What Every Parent Needs To Know.” He thinks parents should have the ability to freeze their children’s credit as early as birth, but he says the industry will not allow it.
“It’s not something that’s making money for the credit agencies,” he said.
The Consumer Data Industry Association which represents the credit bureaus argues you have to create a credit report to freeze it, which it claims creates more opportunities for fraud.
Maryland passed a law last year allowing parents to put a security freeze on their child’s record until they turn sixteen. The industry tells us it isn’t willing to expand that to the rest of the country because, “no one has concluded that this is truly an effective strategy for preventing identity theft.” The CDIA also points out little can be done to stop parents from stealing their own kids’ identities. Instead, it suggests this type of theft would drop if the federal government would grant access to its database so creditors can verify a social security number belongs to an adult when someone applies for credit.
Chappell says for now you can protect your own family by not giving out social security numbers unless it is absolutely necessary. McNabb says warn kids at a young age not to share any private information on their phones because once it’s out there, you can’t get it back. She points to the silver lining to kid I.D. theft.
“It’s relatively easy to clear it up, by establishing a child’s age,” McNabb said.
A child cannot legally open a line of credit, so once you report the crime to police and prove to the credit agencies your child is a minor, his or her record will be cleared. Corrie and his grandmother are now on their way to winning back his identity.
To request a credit report for a child, see sample letters you can write to each of the credit bureaus.