Imagine a 5-year-old girl walks into a local bank. She’s alone, but the lobby is bustling. No one really notices. So she skips over to a banker’s desk and sits down with her hands folded solemnly in her lap.

She says: “I’d like to open up a credit card account, please.” And in no time at all, she’s the owner of a shiny, brand-new credit card account!

Doesn’t sound like a likely scenario, right?

Well, according to the 2018 Child Identity Fraud Study, more than 1 million children in the U.S. were victims of identity theft last year. And two-thirds of them were under the age of 8!

So, no, a preschooler probably hasn’t stormed into a Wells Fargo looking to improve her credit score. But I can confidently say that a 5-year-old girl is the not-so-proud owner of a credit card account.

She’s just not the one using it.

See, a kid’s name has never been used before. So when a bank or another company pulls a credit report, they’re not going to find any real information. The criminal has a completely clean slate to work from.

And since they can buy a child’s Social Security number on the dark web for about $2, it’s easier than ever to ruin a preschooler’s credit score.

But this statistic doesn’t just tell me criminals are, well, scummy people. It also tells me that identity theft is becoming such a massive trend that not even kids are safe.

Want to hear another scary statistic?

Shape Security, a cybersecurity firm, just reported that online retailers are another huge victim of this trend.

See, hackers can plug stolen data into a program that floods a company with login attempts, called “credential stuffing.” Shape Security found that more than 90% of a retailer’s global login traffic comes from these assaults!

And it doesn’t stop there.

Consumer banking and airline companies are facing a blitz too, with about 60% of their login attempts coming from fraudsters.

And these attacks are successful as often as 3% of the time.

Think about it. The number sounds small, but that accounts for roughly $6 billion a year for the e-commerce sector. Meanwhile, consumer banking is losing $1.7 billion annually.

Kids, online retailers, airlines and more are being hurt on a daily basis from hackers. And it’s not easing up. Cyber criminals are clearly becoming more sophisticated. Plus, there’s an entire community of them on the dark web sharing successful strategies with each other.

It’s a bit nerve-racking to think about.

But, I’ve got to say, instead of scaring me, all this data actually just makes feel something else … determination. It makes me realize I should be doing everything in my power to make it harder on hackers.

After all, in the end, it’s up to us to protect our own identities. So if you’re not making a concerted effort to safeguard your information, I urge you to start looking into it. That’s what I’m doing.


Jessica Cohn-Kleinberg
Managing Editor, Banyan Hill Publishing