More than one million children in the United States had their identities stolen last year, according to a new study, which also estimated the cost of the thefts at around $2.6 billion. In fact, families of the victims were forced to pay approximately $540 million out of pocket in order to cover these massive and often overlooked cases of identity theft.
The study was conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research and, other than revealing the shocking number of children affected by identity theft, also had another big finding: Who’s actually stealing these kids identities. For adults, the thief is almost always a stranger, as only seven percent of victims know the identity thief. But when it comes to kids, it’s just the opposite. “60 percent of identity fraud victims who are children know the perpetrator,” Gizmodo reports. One out of every three stolen identity cases involving kids was committed by a family friend, while an estimated 18 percent of kids who had their identity stolen were victims of their parent’s spouse or partner.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, many parents learn that their child’s identity has been stolen from the IRS, and it’s often in the form of a “your child has not paid his income taxes” letter. Two-thirds of the victims are younger than eight years old.
Unsurprisingly, the internet is seen also seen as a reason why kids are getting their identities stolen at such high numbers, as digital records kept at school or doctor’s offices make easy fodder for data breaches. According to the study, 11 percent of households in America had the identity of at least one of their child’s information accessed illegally in the last year.