by Becky GINOS
BOUNTIFUL—When most people think about identity theft they’re concerned about protecting themselves – not their children. According to a recent study 1 million children were victims of identity theft in 2017.
“Children are prime targets,” said Bountiful resident Ron Mortensen during a presentation at the Golden Years Senior Center. “Children are 51 times more likely than adults and 82 percent are involving their Social Security numbers.”
Mortensen has advocated at the legislature for tougher laws to protect personal information from being sold or distributed through voter registration or other means.
“What if someone is using your 3-year-old’s Social Security number to get a job?” he said. “What if your 5-year-old has a home mortgage? I heard of a family who went in for Medicaid and they told them their daughter was making $70,000. She was only 5 or 7 years old.”
He recommended to the group to freeze not only their own credit but also that of their children or grandchildren. “You should do it with all three credit reporting agencies,” said Mortensen. “There is no cost to freeze or unfreeze your own credit. Also, find out if their identity is already being used. See if they have a credit file on your child. Experian offers a free one-time service for parents to check if their children are victims of identity theft.”
Child identity theft is so prevalent that Experian designated Sept. 1 as Child Identity Theft Awareness Day, he said. “According to a study cited by Experian, in 2017 more than 1 million kids were affected resulting in $2.6 billion in losses.”
Parents can also find out through Utah Workforce Services whether their child’s Social Security number is being used to earn wages or other government benefits. “You’d be surprised how many 5-year-olds are earning wages,” said Mortensen. “A lot of times it’s people who are illegal but it can also be deadbeat parents who use their child’s Social Security number to avoid child support.”
Mortensen also encouraged the audience members to only support businesses that use E-Verify. “It’s an awesome child identity theft prevention program,” he said. “When a business hires an employee they run their name, Social Security number and birthdate. It all has to match up. If someone is using your grandson’s name and Social Security number they might be able to get by but they can’t pass as an 8-year-old. They might get your Social Security number and use it with their own name but with E-Verify it won’t match. Ninety-eight percent of identity theft is related to employment.”
Ask the business if they use E-Verify, he said. “If they don’t, tell them you can’t do business there until they start using it to protect your children and grandchildren.”
To find a list of employers that use E-Verify visit www.e-verify.gov/about-e-verify/e-verify-data/participating-employers. To contact the three credit reporting agencies call Equifax – 1-800-349-9960, Experian – 1-888-397-3742 and TransUnion – 1-888-909-8872.