The Invisible Crime: Opening Our Eyes to Child Identity Theft
Robert Chappell Jr. is no stranger to criminal activity. After working in law enforcement for 27 years, and most recently as a criminal investigator with Virginia State Police, Mr. Chappell started to notice that the trends towards “schemes and scams” of identity theft began to morph from a crime against adults into an offense directed more and more at children. He attempted to look for educational resources and publications that would help him stay educated in regards to this increasingly prevalent crime. He explains that he went to local book chains, public libraries, and even law enforcement resources. Still he could find hardly any information on child identity theft. It was then that he decided to compile his own experiences and research.
In his upcoming book Child Identity Theft: What Every Parent Needs to Know, Robert identifies child identity theft as “targeting a child for the theft of their identity, or parts of their identity, for profit or personal gain. Child identity theft occurs for financial gain, personal gain, or criminal intent. Financial gain occurs when a thief steals a child’s information and applies for credit. In most cases, the credit pursued is credit cards but it is also found in vehicle purchases, home purchases, furniture buys, appliance purchases, electronics and more.” He defines personal gain as the purposes that parents may not as readily identify, including stealing identities for utility, cable, or telephone service accounts.
His book is organized in a reader-friendly question and answer format, designed as a reference tool for parents, educators, law enforcement, and other individuals involved or interested in child welfare. The publication is full of helpful tips for parents, and outlines “red flags” that they should look for.
Mr. Chappell references a testimony of a teen who has recentlydiscovered people working under her ID, or another young boy whose family has found out he owns a house in another state. These cases may sound rare, but. Mr. Chappell points out that “children are fifty-one times more likely than adults to be victimized by identity theft. With forty-nine percent of child victims being under the age of six, a child’s only hope of protection is their parents and grandparents. Most people, parents or not, who hear about this crime are astonished to find out that someone would victimize children, however thieves have learned that stealing from children is big business.”
Chappell explains that children are more vulnerable to identity theft because they do not check their credit report annually. In fact, he elaborates, “children usually do not figure out they have been victimized until they reach the age of eighteen and make application to a college, apply for a job, try to obtain their first credit card, or attempt to buy their first vehicle. At this point, they may uncover they have been victimized.” He encourages parents to request a copy of their child’s credit report from one of the three reporting agencies yearly. He goes more in depth in his book, which further outlines the top ten mistakes families make and what they can do to avoid being victimized.
His career and knowledge in the field causes Chappell to advocate with this motto: “Education is the key to prevention.” Robert Chappell’s book is already generating a buzz in the world of law enforcement in the United States and internationally. The book will be available in February, and Chappell will begin a national promotional tour early this year. If you would like to purchase a copy of Child Identity Theft: What Every Parent Needs to Know, or find out more, you can visit his website at www.childIDtheft.org.