Identity theft is a horrifying crime that can wreak havoc on your credit and complicate your life. It is also one of the most accessible crimes in America, requiring little to no experience in the hacking industry (hello, dumpster diving!), so cyber thieves are taking full advantage.
Approximately 15.4 million people in the U.S. were victims of identity theft in 2016, which adds up to a loss of around $16 billion. In the past six years alone, the total amount of reported loss has reached an estimated $107 billion, and that number is about to get a whole lot worse.
Cybercriminals are now claiming to sell the identity of babies and children, including their Social Security numbers, dates of birth and mother's maiden names, according to CNN.
Infuriating, right? Sadly, it gets worse.
If obtained, this information would give criminals access to clean credit history that could be used to take out a mortgage, apply for credit cards or receive government benefits. Even more distressing, because of the age of the victims, these crimes could easily go undetected until the child is old enough to open up a credit card account of his or her own.
OK, now you can scream.
On a dark web marketplace—only accessible through Tor software (a free form of network surveillance)—researchers at Terbium Labs, a dark web intelligence firm, discovered a listing for infant data. The ad, written in cyber slang, read "get em befor tax seson [sic]."
The cost: $300 worth of the cyber currency bitcoin for each baby's data set.
"It's unusual to have information specifically marked as belonging to children or infants on these markets,” Emily Wilson, the company's director of analysis, told the news outlet.
Even so, the notion of stealing the identity of a child came as no surprise. In 2011, Carnegie Mellon University's CyLab shared disturbing statistics, one of which declared the rate of identity theft to be 51 times higher for children than for adults, CNN reports.
The rate of identity theft is 51 times higher for children than for adults.
Though cyber thieves can compromise a person's identity within in a matter of minutes, an attorney with the Federal Trade Commission's Division of Consumer and Business Education, said that Social Security numbers are key.
"It [doesn't always have to be] in the child's name," FTC attorney Lisa Schifferle said. "Sometimes thieves use Social Security numbers in connection with a made-up name or their own name."
That being said, what can you do to prevent these hackers from destroying your child's future?
For starters, you can check out the resources on the FTC's website. There you will find links for limiting the risks of child identity theft, ways to repair damage and what to do when your child turns 16.
If you believe that your child’s identity is at risk, be sure to contact all three nationwide credit reporting companies—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—immediately to receive a free credit report, then follow the steps to prevent further corruption.
As if wiping butts and changing diapers weren’t enough. Now, parents get to clean baby’s credit, too.