Hackers are stealing children’s identities and selling them on dark web marketplaces, according to a report by Motherboard. A cybersecurity researcher found posts on several markets, like Dream and Empire, advertising stolen personal information that includes Social Security numbers.
“For very young children it’s reasonable to assume criminals are sourcing the data through access points in hospital networks or government systems,” explained Emily Wilson, VP of research at Terbium Labs, a cybersecurity firm. “In this case, the vendor is explicit about the hospital connection.”
The posts are selling “fullz,” which are considered full sets of information and contain a child’s name, address, phone number, Social Security number, and date of birth. According to the listing, each “fullz” costs $10 (although discounts are available for buying in bulk) and is from a child born between 2000 and 2010.
“Most of [the affected children] won’t be opening lines of credit for another five to ten years—plenty of time to do some serious financial damage,” Wilson warns, adding that the risk of identity theft among children increases as they get older, since “their data starts to enter the system more broadly, through school registrations and other activities.”
So what can parents do to protect their children? The Federal Trade Commission advises parents to request a security freeze on a child’s credit file, which makes it more difficult for thieves to access personal information.
To freeze a minor’s credit file, parents can contact one of the three major crediting bureaus: Experian, Equifax, or Transunion. According to Experian’s website, parents will need to provide a lot of information and documents to place the freeze, including a complete list of addresses for the past two years, a copy of the child’s birth certificate and Social Security card, and a copy of an insurance or bank statement to verify the parent’s identity.