MASSILLON,Ohio--(BUSINESS WIRE)--SubscriberWise®, a leading provider of analytics-driven subscriber risk management technology and the first U.S. issuing consumer reporting agency for the communications industry, acknowledged today that police have confirmed another alarming but typical child identity fraud. The victim is a 14-year old girl.
View Massillon Police Report and Supplement No: 14-18037: http://www.subscriberwise.com/media/Child%20Identity%20Theft%20-%20Massillon%20Police%20Department%20Case%2014-18037.pdf
An analysis from SubscriberWise that included countless child frauds spanning an entire decade offers profound evidence that the absence of a federally mandated index of child-SSN’s enables this crime to persist unabated and with near impunity.
Today there’s a conspicuous technology gap that fails to offer adequate identity theft protection for children while also exposing creditors and the national credit bureaus to this predatory behavior. The proposed index would instantly alert creditors that a social security number matched belongs to a known and living minor child in much the same way the SSN master death index alerts creditors today.
“This latest crime involved the theft of a social security number from a 14-year-old child. The child’s mother perpetrated the crime in an attempt to avoid her unpaid account,” said David Howe, president of SubscriberWise and credit manager for MCTV. “The woman intended to open a new account using the child’s identity. Unfortunately, this is a very common scenario for operators everywhere in this nation. It should serve as an important justification for a child SSN index among many others.”
Listen to a typical scenario when a grandparent is confronted with the theft of her grandchild’s identity: http://subscriberwise.com/media/Grandmother_Takes_Child_Identity.wav
“Law enforcement confirmed that the social security number belonged to the 14-year-old,” stated Howe. “According to Detective Curtiss Ricker of Massillon police, the parent-perpetrator falsified the child’s date of birth and fabricated a middle initial while applying for a cable account. The mother provided the minor’s stolen but otherwise legitimate SSN during the service application.
“Police were contacted after the suspect refused to answer her phone and confirm identifying information. Over the course of two weeks, MCTV made more than 25 attempts to reach the suspected fraudster. The FTC’s ‘Red Flag’ rules demanded a response to the suspected identity theft,” Howe explained. “When information cannot be confirmed and there’s evidence of fraud, we are obligated to notify the police.”
“As a mother, I find it incredibly sad and disturbing that any adult - especially a parent or caregiver - would misuse an innocent child's personal information to obtain credit or services,” commented Heather Vignos, a mother of three young children and an MCTV customer service representative with nearly a decade of call center experience. “Having already damaged their own credit, these deceptive and irresponsible adults attempt to do the same to a helpless child. Some of these children will go into adulthood having a credit disadvantage,” explained Vignos.
“Most parents are loving, caring, and always concerned: we do everything we can to protect our children,” continued Vignos. “Providing excellent nutrition, clothing, and safe shelter are basic concerns for every parent. There are many other important concerns and responsibilities for parents today. This proposed legislation would be a safeguard that will protect children as well as businesses from this type of credit predator.
“I urge everyone, particularly Congress, to give close and careful consideration to the Subscriberwise Child Identity Protection Act,” concluded Vignos. “It’s a critical legislative initiative that will help countless children now and in the future.”
“The Federal Trade Commission mandates identity theft mitigation for virtually every creditor in the nation,” reiterated Howe. “Compliance is not an option for cable, satellite, and telephone service providers – all frequent targets of this outrageous predatory and criminal behavior.
“It’s my strong position and professional opinion that Federal ‘Red Flag’ rules are an important and necessary regulation that could be much more robust and effective if technology solutions were focused on children, particularly at the federal level,” Howe emphasized.
“In fact it’s remarkable to me that the federal government, on one hand, demands identity theft mitigation protocols and compliance for creditors across this nation; on the other hand, the federal government fails to deliver a technology solution that would dramatically and positively impact this sad situation. This arrangement just doesn’t make sense and I’m hardly alone in this sentiment,” commented Howe.
“Notwithstanding the crime against an innocent child and the countless negative consequences that can flow from this disturbing but otherwise common crime, I’ll detail a few more justifications our society – and lawmakers in particular – must insist on policy to better protect children,” continued Howe. “Because of inadequate information and technology lapses from the federal government, the police and businesses do not know when a social security number belongs to a living minor child. And law enforcement and businesses are not alone. The national credit bureaus Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, they too are unaware and uninformed of a child’s SSN.
“The lack of information exacerbates the problem by enabling the creation of fraudulent consumer reports and child synthetic frauds. It’s the reason children are victimized with frequency and ease,” argued Howe. “Identifying and blocking a child’s SSN would make a world of difference in minimizing this crime.
“Moreover, once a crime is substantiated and the evidence demonstrated beyond doubt, prosecutors are often powerless to impact the problem because current statutes are inadequate. State laws may vary and they’re certainly arbitrary and capricious in how they are interpreted and applied - particularly on the question of consent in this country,” argued Howe.
“Prosecutors are also busy. They have constrained resources. This translates into inaction and failure to enforce existing identity theft laws. It’s not uncommon – in fact it’s probably the norm everywhere – for a citizen to file a police report and have an officer confirm undeniable evidence without ever hearing a word from the state or ever reading a charge on a docket.
“Yes, the level of failure is remarkable at so many levels. It fails with the parents, the guardians, and the relatives; it fails with the credit submissions and with the national credit bureaus; it fails with prosecutors who are unwilling to enforce the law; and, most critical, it fails with the federal government.
“I hope Congress is paying attention as children are needlessly exploited everyday,” declared Howe.
“I received several follow up calls from Detective Ricker,” continued Howe. “The detective confirmed the child fraud during his investigation. The suspect refused to cooperate when he went to the home to investigate so he contacted county human services to obtain information. It was a prudent decision. The officer was able to compare the SSN provided during the service request with the agency’s internal records. The records included the victim-child’s SSN and personal information. It was an exact match with the information from the call center. There was no doubt that the child’s identity had been stolen.
“Detective Ricker of Massillon Police finalized his investigation. The facts and evidence were offered to Massillon’s prosecutor,” commented Howe. “The detective contacted me again following his meeting with the prosecutor. I was told that Chief Prosecutor John Simpson decided the case was a ‘no go’.
“I contacted Prosecutor John Simpson directly,” continued Howe. “I wanted to understand why the state would allow a mother to illegally usurp her child’s identity. I wanted to know why the state of Ohio would allow a perpetrator to face absolutely no consequences when the evidence was undeniable.
“Mr. Simpson and I spoke for nearly a half hour. He articulated his reasons for not pursuing criminal charges despite his acknowledgement of the facts and the officer’s thorough investigation. I advised Mr. Simpson I wanted a statement explaining his position. I asked for announcement from his office supporting the important legislative initiative.
“Following our telephone conference, I provided several opportunities for the prosecutor to offer a written statement. I wanted to ensure that Congress and the nation would have an opportunity to hear directly from the prosecutor - in his own words - why he and the state of Ohio couldn’t or wouldn’t represent a child-victim and a victim-creditor.
“I explained to the prosecutor that his decision and inaction, regardless of how prudent the reasons to ignore prosecution may have seemed, offered another compelling reason why Congress must act to protect children.
“For the record, I did share with Mr. Simpson that the possible criminal conviction and felony charge was - in my opinion - not the best option for either the mother or her child. I argued, as I have in the past for many years, that there should be a technology solution that included an educational component to dramatically reduce these reckless situations in the first place.
“I received no statement or comment from the prosecutor,” stated Howe.
“The following bullet points are notes from my conversation with Prosecutor Simpson. Because of the national significance of this story, I felt obligated to announce the prosecutor's position. I want Congress and the nation to understand how the existing technology gap directly contributes to child victimization through prosecutorial indecision and inaction,” said Howe.
“The itemized points below are abbreviated quotes as articulated from John Simpson:
- The facts of the case are solid...
- The facts may be difficult to apply to a criminal statute…
- Child was there when officer went to home…
- Child is aligned with parent…
- Victim will likely say she gave mother permission…
- Age of victim: difficult criminal case because the child is 14 and may have consented…
- The identity fraud statute is worded ‘without the consent of the victim’…
- Jurisdiction over misdemeanor vs. felony case: likelihood of indictment because I’m a municipal prosecutor that must obtain a felony grand jury indictment…
“Members of Congress who are interested in hearing the perspective of a municipal prosecutor should contact Mr. Simpson directly at his office in Massillon, Ohio,” continued Howe.
“It’s a sad but noteworthy point that this is the typical scenario for these inexcusable child crimes. This has been my experience over the course of an entire decade. And although I respect the decision of the prosecutor and his professional judgment, this outcome - which is characteristic of the majority of identity theft cases - should serve as a loud wake up call for lawmakers that a child protection bill deserves their immediate attention.
“Voluntary programs that exist today are designed to protect a child’s information. They are a good start. Sadly, though, they offer little or no benefit since most of these thefts are perpetrated by the child’s parents, guardians, or relatives,” stated Howe. “Protecting children is an issue that deserves the resources and attention of the federal government. The process must start with our elected representatives,” insisted Howe.
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