More than 1 million children living in the U.S. were victims of identity fraud in 2017, a new study revealed.

According to the “2018 Child Identity Fraud Study,” published by Javelin Strategy & Research and sponsored by Identity Guard, identity theft caused $2.6 billion in total losses and $540 million in out-of-pocket costs for the families of the child victims.

Like Stealing Data From a Baby

For the study, Javelin Strategy & Research surveyed 5,000 adults who lived with a dependent minor at some point in the past six years. Their responses, which Javelin collected between August and September 2017, provided insight into the risks that identity fraud poses to children.

The report found that data breaches are particularly damaging for young victims. Of the children who learned their information was exposed, 39 percent fell victim to identity fraud. That’s considerably higher than the rate for adults at just 19 percent.

That wasn’t the only area where child victims of identity fraud, which affected 16.7 million U.S. consumers in 2017, had different experiences than their adult counterparts. For example, more than half (60 percent) of children personally knew the perpetrators who abused their identity. By comparison, just 7 percent of adult victims knew their offender, according to Javelin’s “2018 Identity Fraud Report.”

The Connection Between Bullying and Identity Fraud

At the same time, Javelin discovered that children who had been bullied online were nine times more likely to fall victim to identity fraud than those who weren’t, with incident rates of 6.67 percent and 0.72 percent, respectively. Al Pascual, senior vice president of research and head of fraud and security at Javelin, said this finding indicates how fraud and bullying arise from the “same underlying vulnerabilities.”

“Children who are unprepared to protect themselves from online risks are likely to encounter individuals who wish to target them emotionally or financially,” he explained.

Many children are too young to take the security of their identities into their own hands. With that said, Javelin advised guardians to take it upon themselves to stem the tide of child identity theft by freezing their children’s credit reports, monitoring accounts for suspicious activity and keeping physical documents behind lock and key.

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