With this week’s arrest of a Baton Rouge man accused of stealing Social Security numbers of children across the country, Attorney General James D. “Buddy” Caldwell reminds consumers that identity thieves can use a child’s Social Security number to open bank and credit card accounts, get loans, apply for government benefits, and even rent homes.
Attorney General Caldwell on Tuesday announced the arrest of Donald Batiste, 24, of Baton Rouge.
Batiste was the mastermind of an illegal credit repair and identity theft scheme that included using stolen Social Security numbers belonging to young children.
Batiste has been charged with racketeering and criminal conspiracy for his complex criminal enterprise, which totaled $5.4 million dollars and affected more than 300 consumers.
Attorney General Caldwell said, “Children are often a target for identity thieves because they do not have a credit history and because lenders are more likely to give credit to someone with no credit history than bad credit history.”
Caldwell added, “A young child is a more lucrative target because of the fact thieves can hide their tracks longer than if they steal an adult’s identity. This identity fraud may go unnoticed until the child reaches age 18.”
Wondering if child identity theft could happen to your family? Attorney General Caldwell said there are several signs someone is misusing your child’s personal information and committing fraud. For example, you or your child might:
- Get collection calls or bills for products or services you didn’t receive.
- Get notices from the IRS saying the child didn’t pay income taxes or that the child’s Social Security number was used on another tax return.
- Be turned down for government benefits because the benefits are being paid to another account using your child’s Social Security number.
If you think your child’s information is at risk, check for activity associated with your child’s Social Security
number by contacting each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies:
Equifax: (800) 525-6285
Experian: (888) 397-3742
Transunion: (800) 680-7289
The companies will check for files relating to the child’s name and Social Security number, and for files related only to the child’s Social Security number.
The credit reporting companies may require copies of: the child’s birth certificate, the child’s Social Security card, the parent or guardian’s government-issued identification card, and proof of address.
Attorney General Caldwell recommends that you take these steps to protect your child’s identity from misuse:
- Find a safe location for all paper and electronic records that show your child’s personal information.
- Don’t share your child’s Social Security number unless you know and trust the other party. Ask why it’s necessary and how it will be protected.
- Shred all documents that show your child’s personal information before throwing them away.
- Use the alert and freeze options offered by the credit reporting companies to notify you of suspicious activity or stop unauthorized activity.
Be aware of events that put information at risk. For example, an adult in your household wants to use a child’s
identity to start over; you lose a wallet, purse or paperwork that has your child’s Social Security information;
there’s a break-in at your home; or a school, doctor’s office or business notifies you that your child’s information was affected by a security breach.
For more information about child identity theft, contact Attorney General Caldwell’s Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 351-4889.