State may have compromised 1,800 social security numbers, belonging to children. Thousands at risk nationally.
In a press release dated July, 15, 2005, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff announced that five people have been charged---and hundreds more may be charged----with stealing and forging social security numbers belonging to children.
"Operation Protect the Children" is a joint investigation by the Utah Attorney General's Office, Office of Inspector General for the Social Security Administration and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The ongoing investigation has uncovered an alarming new crime spree involving illegal aliens and identities stolen from victims under the age of 12.
"Identity thieves are no respecters of age. They will steal your children's ID, ruin their credit and hurt them in ways never thought possible before they can graduate from grade school," says Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. "Children are vulnerable even if parents do everything right."
Investigators checked Utah state records and found that approximately 1,800 social security numbers, belonging to children under of 13, may have been compromised.
"Everyone is doing everything possible to protect the identities of children," says Resident Agent in Charge Ron Ingleby, Office of Inspector General for the SSA. "Identity thieves could get away with destroying a child's credit for years unless we stop them."
The suspects allegedly used the young victim's social security numbers to get jobs, start businesses and open bank accounts. Investigators found some unbelievable work situations based on the social security numbers, including:
Social security numbers were also stolen from a 12-year old boy in Beaver and a 9-year-old boy in Orem. One suspect told investigators he paid $100 for a boy's social security number. All 5 suspects have been charged with third degree felony counts of identity fraud and forgery.
"It was shocking," says Kim Oakden, the mother of a 12-year-old victim. "My heck! I felt violated and I'm frustrated that it can happen so easily."
Not only do victims need to fix their credit, they may face problems if they apply for a school loan, Medicaid, food stamps or other government services.
Scott Smith didn't know his 5-year-old daughter was a victim until he asked about state health benefits. "It's frustrating," says Smith. "Now I need to do a credit check for my daughter to see what damage has been done." The suspect allegedly started using the girl's number when she was only 6 -months-old.
Researchers with News for Public Officials have found thousands of Social Security numbers belonging to children on state and county websites across the country.