Danger comes in numbers

first_imgThe first sign that a child’s identity has been stolen often doesn’t appear until he or she applies for a job, driver’s license or credit card. “There could be millions of kids right now with their Social Security numbers being used and they don’t even know it,” said Lila Sude. The Social Security Administration monitors earnings connected to minors under age 6, said Marianna Gitomer, a spokeswoman for the administration. If wages come up under a Social Security number of a child under 6, the agency sends out a letter to the employer and the child to make sure the numbers are accurate. But after age 6, there’s no way to know if a number is being compromised. “Unless they call or get a letter or something from the credit card companies, there’s no way of knowing,” said Gitomer. Consumers can call a toll-free Social Security number (800-772-1213) to review wages linked to their Social Security numbers, she said. Once theft of a child’s identity is established, it can be more difficult to clear than it is for an adult, said Joanna Crane, manager of the Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft program. “Oftentimes the minor’s Social Security number is used with someone else’s name. Or they use the same name and number but a different address. So when the parent discovers the Social Security number has been used, they can’t get the credit report because they don’t have enough matching information,” she said. Another hitch with minors is that you can’t put a fraud alert on a Social Security number with no credit history. In Joshua Sude’s case, there was no credit fraud. And luckily for him, the IRS is not holding him to the back taxes. But Lila Sude said she is saving any relevant documentation just in case. She also filed a report with the Federal Trade Commission and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in Santa Clarita, where she said she had to line up behind other people reporting cases of identity theft. Sude doesn’t fault the IRS for the mixup. She blames employers who don’t check Social Security numbers thoroughly because it’s bad for business. She also points to politicians who look the other way. “I would say corporations are filling the pockets of politicians,” said Lila Sude. “Everybody’s mad at the Mexicans. Well, they’re just doing what they have to do to survive. It’s the corporations.” Kathleen Finn, a spokeswoman for Jack in the Box Inc., where one of Josh’s impersonators worked, said the company follows federal I-9 procedures. That basically means it has to ask for identification from potential employees. Employers are not required to go any further than that. “Once they are checked and on file there’s nothing else we can do,” said Finn. Asked if the company has ever told franchise owners or store managers to be aware of undocumented workers using others’ Social Security numbers, she said she wasn’t aware of any such effort. Frank Diaz, vice president of risk management for the El Pollo Loco in Agoura Hills where Jesus Cruz worked, said he does his best to train managers to look for fake documents, but that they do make it through from time to time. “Sometimes when they are forged it’s hard to tell,” said Diaz. “We’re not the INS. If they look good, we take them.” He said that if documents look questionable, he will call the Social Security Administration to verify the names and numbers. In the event the administration contacts a franchise questioning an employee’s identification, he asks the worker to go there and get written authorization saying they are who they say they are. “If in two to three days they don’t come back, they are automatically terminated,” he said. That hasn’t happened much in the seven years he’s been with El Pollo Loco, but it has happened. Firing illegal workers doesn’t do much good when the damage is already done. As for preventing identity stealing, kids and their parents are probably on their own. The U.S. Department of Education has a printable brochure on identity theft that it encourages schools to circulate. But it’s not an issue at the top of the list for most districts. Kathleen Miller, director of communications for Azusa Unified School District, said she wasn’t aware of any programs at the schools to educate parents and kids on keeping their information private. Chris Eftychiou at Long Beach Unified said the same thing. “You don’t think about (identity theft) in the context of kids,” said Miller. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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