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ID theft is an ageless crime

The words “Identity Theft” are at the top of everyone’s personal fright list. The examples are many.

A young married couple, Robert and Jennifer Anderson, applied for a mortgage on a starter three-bedroom suburban ranch home. Both were employed, responsible and paid their bills on time.

They were hands down refused. The problem was identity theft and a credit score built around $46,000 in long overdue outstanding debt incurred when Robert was 15 years old.

Belinda Bellingham, a five year old, who carried her Hello Kitty backpack to kindergarten each morning, started receiving credit card offers in the mail.

Her alarmed parents discovered that their child’s social security number was being used by no less than 40 illegal immigrants spread out in 10 different states.

Raul Martinez, an 18-year-old U.S.-born citizen, applied for student loans to help with his college expenses.

Imagine his surprise when he learned that he already had multiple unpaid college loans — some going back to when he was still in elementary school.

He was also actively employed and paying into his account in a location nearly 3,000 miles from where he lived.

Social Security numbers were never meant to be identifiers, however that’s what they have become. Your life, your finances, your credit-worthiness, your future — all tied to a nine-digit number.

The majority of the overall compromises come from stranger vs. stranger cases, however, the most troubling in recent years involve the hijacking of young children’s numbers.

Why? Because those numbers are “pure” and starting a fake credit history is much easier than fraudulently assuming an active identity.

Fraudsters start the use of stolen numbers to open bank accounts, apply for cell phone accounts, avoid a criminal or medical records check, or even get a job if the child has a SSN but the parent does not. The ways are many; the results are the same. There are few happy endings.

Next week I’ll provide the “How To Protect Your Child” list.

Starting right now, however, get used to the idea that it’s not only adults who are at risk. Any legitimate nine-digit identifier can be hijacked. Age is seldom a qualifier. A crawling baby can, theoretically, be applying for a car loan. It’s that bad out there!

Drop by the Pahrump Valley Times offices, 2160 E. Calvada Blvd., for a copy of Leslie Kim’s latest book “123 Main Street … the Scamming of America.” Only $19.95 while supplies last.

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