Closing a Door on Child Identity Theft

The Identity Theft Resource Center offers a solution to the problem that has made headlines this week — young children have their pristine SSN misused to create credit histories for those who have poor credit ratings, are illegal immigrants, or have other illegal intent:

Since the 1980’s, children in the US have been issued Social Security numbers (SSN) at birth. However, by law, they cannot be offered credit until they reach the age of 18. A child’s SSN is therefore dormant for credit purposes for 18 years. Opportunists have found novel ways to abuse these “dormant” numbers. Unfortunately, credit issuers do not currently have the ability to verify if a SSN belongs to an adult or a minor. If they knew that the SSN presented belonged to a minor they would automatically deny opening a credit account.

Years ago, the Identity Theft Resource Center envisioned a simple solution to this problem. It is called the Minors 17-10 Database and ITRC has been talking with various government entities and legislators about this concept since July 2005. With the growing popularity of so-called “credit protection numbers”, “credit privacy numbers (CPN)”, and now “secondary credit numbers” being sold online, this issue has become more urgent. These dormant Social Security numbers, being sold as CPNs, frequently were issued to children. The crime, identity theft, most likely will not be discovered until the teen reaches adulthood.

The creation of a Minors 17-10 Database would provide credit issuers the tool to verify if the SSN provided belongs to a child. This proposed SSA record file would selectively extract the name, month of birth, year of birth, and SSN of every minor from birth to the age of 17 years and 10 months. This record file, maintained by SSA, would be provided monthly to approved credit reporting agencies. When a credit issuer calls about the creditworthiness of a SSN, if the number is on the Minors 17-10 Database, they would be told that the SSN belongs to a minor. This would effectively deny obtaining credit using a minor’s SSN. It would reduce business fraud loss as well as protecting children from abuse of their SSNs for illegal financial purposes.

Various senior managers from the credit reporting agencies, some business groups and even the Social Security Administration think this is a win-win solution, and can be implemented.

The ITRC recognizes that the selling of “CPNs” is an avenue that cybercriminals are currently abusing. It’s time to shut that door of opportunity.

Sounds like a reasonable approach, although I think we need other new laws as well: one that would prohibit SSN being available online as part of public records, and one that would require IRS to match taxpayer name with SSA’s list of issued numbers to determine if there’s a mis-match that requires notification of the legitimate SSN-holder.

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2 comments to “Closing a Door on Child Identity Theft”

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  1. WhoComplys - August 4, 2010

    Why must the government always reinvent the wheel?
    We’ve already spent millions-upon-millions of dollars creating the e-verify program for employment verification. The e-verify system already maintains the correct information on 445 million Americans. This program should be used as a tool to prevent fraud by allowing credit issuers to enter the SSN, name and birthday that the individual claims is correct. The credit issuers receives an immediate electronic response that the information entered is correct or does not match (Red Flag).
    Really not brain surgery!

  2. Golde - August 4, 2010

    None of this is brain surgery. It just takes some public interest and a lot of governmental interest to make something happen. If enough parents let the SSA and US AG’s office know of their unhappiness, maybe this subject will finally be a topic du jour and one that will be addressed.

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