As identity theft spreads, even your toddler can be a victim | #WomenInTech

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Cybercrime is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the nation, costing businesses and consumers billions of dollars each year. And as most security experts will tell you, the bad guys are one step ahead of you.

Nowhere is that more apparent than in the rapidly growing problem of identity theft. According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft complaints nearly doubled from 2014 to 2015. According to Eva Casey-Velasquez, president and chief executive of the Identity Theft Research Center, consumers need to take an active involvement in safeguarding their data as well.

Velasquez met up with Jeff Frick (@JeffFrick), co-host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile video studio, at a Data Privacy Day event held Thursday by the National Cyber Security Alliance at the San Francisco headquarters of Twitter Inc., a sponsor of the event. Data Privacy Day is an annual celebration to recognize the Jan. 28, 1981, signing of Convention 108, the first legally binding international treaty concerning privacy and data protection.

Velasquez, who’s been chosen as our featured Woman in Tech this week, talked about how consumers run into identity theft problems and what they can do about them. This is one of a series of interviews with privacy and security experts at the event.

Help for repairing identity

Unlike knowing a wallet or an import document is missing, when the person understands there is a possibility of theft, most compromised targets of this crime are usually unaware of their stolen identity until they try to make an important purchase, Velasquez said.

“It’s interesting because there isn’t one universal pathway that people discover it,” she said. “It’s usually a roadblock. So, they’re trying to move forward in their lives in some manner, and during that process, they find out that there’s something amiss, either the background check or their credit report.”

But there are ways to reduce the pain. The Identity Theft Resource Center offers free services to help consumers tackle the problem. The Federal Trade Commission also provides remediation plans where victims can receive online assistance.

Moreover, there are cases where a person already has fraud detection benefits through an insurance policy, like homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance. And some employers also offer protection in a benefits package. Finally, said Velasquez, “If you really feel like you’re overwhelmed, you can always look into hiring a service provider, and that’s a legitimate thing to do, as long as you know who you’re doing business with and realize that you’re going to be paying for that convenience.”

Protecting the identity of children

As hackers find their way into insurance, financial and tax return data, a new victim is emerging. According to one report, children are falling victim to identity theft generally because their parents don’t typically monitor their child’s credit.

The report found that 10 percent of the children monitored had their Social Security Number in use by someone else. According to the study, that is 51 percent higher than the rate for adults. “[Children] don’t have a credit card or a credit history, but they do have a Social Security Number that is being issued within the first year of their life because their parents need to use it on their tax returns and other government documents,” explained Velasquez.

The Social Security Administration and the credit reporting agencies don’t communicate, so anyone who begins using the number doesn’t even need a date of birth. “For someone who’s under 18, a kid goes all through life, maybe all through school, and as they get out and start doing things like applying  for student loans [most commonly], they come to find out ‘I have this whole credit history, and guess what, it’s a terrible credit history,’ and they have to clean that up before they can even begin to launch into adulthood,” Velasquez said.

Finding a unique identifier

The fact is that the initial intention for devising the Social Security Number was for no other purpose than to identify people and their Social Security benefits. But industry decided to repurpose it because it was a unique identifier and the source of the number, the government, was vetting the information, so it became a way for creditors to build a credit history.

The industry is beginning to search for solutions to move beyond the Social Security Number, Velasquez said. “We are talking about biometrics and other ways to authenticate people … more sharing within government agencies and industry of that data, so we can authenticate people through. Something you are, something you have, something you know, that’s kind of the standard we are trying to push,” she said.

Timely advice

Over the next few weeks, 35 percent of taxpayers will be using an online filing program to prepare and file their taxes. Velasquez demonstrated that tax identity theft was something that the federal government never really thought about, and so, at the onset, there were no fraud analytics or verification for online filing.

“We’ve started to address that because it’s still a huge problem and the number one type of identity theft,” she said.

Here’s the complete video interview with Velasquez. You can watch the rest of theCUBE’s coverage of the event here.

Photo by SiliconANGLE