Like a lot of Americans, Kevin Barnaby Jr.'s credit is messed up. The difference in his case is that he's a 4-year-old with two Capital One credit card accounts. Writing for BuzzFeed, Leticia Miranda uses his story as a launchpad from which to dive into the hazy issue of child identity theft. Hazy because, as Miranda writes, "KJ’s experience is not an uncommon one—it's just that child identity theft is poorly documented and poorly policed." Kids make for good victims, the FTC's identity theft program manager tells her, because their credit is squeaky clean, the theft can go undiscovered for years, and family members have easy access to their SSNs. Sometimes parents use them out of desperation—to keep the lights on, for instance. In KJ's case, his estranged father bought his girlfriend an engagement ring.
Miranda asks the big question: Why are banks issuing credit cards based on the SSN of a toddler? Blame loopholes in part, she says, citing a 1974 federal privacy law that makes the feds' SSN database inaccessible to banks and credit bureaus. They're therefore left verifying things using a process of their own making (Miranda points out they could cross-check with the Social Security Administration using a form filled out by the potential credit-card holder, but that would slow the process by up to a week). Making it tougher is that since 2011, kids have been doled out randomized SSNs. In KJ's case, his father allegedly used his son's SSN but his own date of birth to open the cards. He's been convicted of felony identity theft, but KJ's mom is still struggling to clear her son's credit, and is suing three major credit bureaus in an attempt to do so. Read the full story here. (Read more identity theft stories.)