New ID theft targets kids' Social Security numbers

Thieves are targeting children's Social Security numbers before they even have a bank account, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Hundreds of shady online businesses, many posted on Craigslist or under their own web sites, are conducting computer sweeps to find dormant Social Security numbers, then selling those numbers under another name to help people establish phony credit and run up huge debts they will never pay off, the report says.

The lure of a fresh Social Security number with no credit problems is too much for some people to pass up, especially since customers are typically promised a 700 to 800, or excellent, credit score within six months.

Customers are also instructed to provide false information when using the number to apply for credit, including never using their real name or date of birth, and to avoid listing any addresses or phone numbers they've used in the past. They're also told to avoid any other information that connects the new, clean credit profile with the old, damaged one.

And sadly, experts say it's nearly impossible to prevent the fraud because it's so easily concealed and targets such vulnerable people.

Other than checking with the credit bureaus to see if there's a credit file associated with your child's Social Security number, there's nothing special you can do to safeguard the number, which is now routinely issued at a child's birth.