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News

Identity Thieves Exploit Social Security Numbers of Minors

Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) : 06 August, 2010  (Technical Article)
The use of dormant social security numbers of children under the age of 18 provides identity thieves with access to fraudulent credit facilities
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.
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