ID and fraud protection service AllClear ID, is launching a new feature today which aims to protect kids’ Social Security Numbers (SSNs) from being stolen and used to secure things like mortgages, loans and other big ticket items. It’s a major problem, the company says, noting in a new study that 10.7% of children have had their ID stolen.
The idea with the new service is to create the equivalent of the “Do Not Call” list for children’s SSNs. Once on the list, if any criminal tries to use the kid’s ID for any reason – even just a credit check – credit reporting agency TransUnion will immediately flag and block the ID’s use. Oh, and the best part? It’s free.
And no, not free as in we take your credit card info and then give you a free trial then start billing you on the sly. It’s actually free, as in no credit card info is even needed to use this thing. Of course, like most identity protection services, there are extra, premium features for those who want to pay, but the new child SSN block is not one of them.
A little background: you may not know of AllClear ID by name, as the company, originally founded in 2004, recently rebranded itself from the way less cooler sounding name “Debix.” But they’ve been connected with the tech industry in ways you probably do remember – when Sony’s PlayStation Network was notoriously hacked in April 2011, exposing customers’ names, addresses and emails, among other things, AllClear ID was the company Sony hired to help the 75 million victims of that security breach get back on track.
Today, the company offers services for both adults and children, the latter known as “ChildScan.” This service allows parents to scan, repair, and now, block child ID theft. After registering your child’s info either online or in the mobile app, the block on the child’s SSN will remain in place until age 17, at no charge to you.
The feature is available thanks to AllClear ID’s partner TransUnion, which is the only one of the big three credit reporting agencies to support these proactive measures. However, company CEO Bo Holland says that this is still effective in terms of stopping the biggest losses ID theft can lead to.
“For the bigger ticket items, like home mortgages and automobiles, typically the bank will check all three of your credit scores…so, we think we can take the losses down by 80%,” he says. “But it would be great if the other bureaus were to participate,” he adds.
In a new report from the company which examined the trends from nearly 27,000 scans’ of kids’ SSNs, AllClear found that criminals are now targeting the youngest children because they have a “clean slate” to build on top of, with no prior credit history. According to the data analyzed, 15% of child ID theft victims were 5 years old or younger, which was a 105% increase since 2011. 28% were 6 to 10, growth of 34% over 2011.
Meanwhile, growth rates for kids over 11 remained flat, which indicates that criminals are now going after the SSNs of ever younger children. And as noted above, 10.7% of the minors in the report had someone else using their SSN, up from 10.2% last year. Plus, the rate of ID theft for children was 35 times at the rate for parents.
The company doesn’t know exactly why the usage of young children’s SSNs has jumped up so much over last year. “I don’t think it’s related to the economy,” says Holland, “it’s purely the natural progression. Step one, [the criminals] figured out you can actually do this with a child’s social security number…and now that they’ve got that mastered, the question becomes ‘how do I improve the game?’ The logical improvement is to start them young,” he says.
Holland also says that organized crime is a big driver here, with human trafficking being a major source of ID theft. If a person wants to stay in the country for several years, they’re much better off with a child’s identity where usage may not be noticed for years, than they are with an adult’s ID. For example, in the largest fraud ever committed against a child, involving $1.5 million in debt, the victim was a 19-year old girl whose SSN had been in use since age 9.
Next week, the company’s mobile application will be updated with text that better explains the new ChildScan SSN blocking feature, but parents who register their kids with ChildScan starting today will have the protection put in place automatically. The app itself is available here on iTunes, and includes access to the adult credit and ID services, too. An Android version is the works, but no exact launch date is yet known.