WASHINGTON (10/17/11)--A number of government agencies and organizations, including the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), launched on Sunday the 4th Annual National Protect Your Identity Week (PYIW), which will highlight child identity theft protection and education. The week, which runs through Saturday, is hosted by the National Foundation of Credit Counseling (NFCC), the National Association of Triads Inc., and the National Sheriffs' Association. The event coincides with the Council of Better Business Bureaus' Secure Your ID Day, which will be observed Saturday. More than eight million consumers were impacted last year by the crime of identity theft, resulting in the loss of $37 billion, according to Javelin Strategy and Research. "For the 11th year in a row, identity theft remained the No. 1 most-reported complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, further underscoring the need for this campaign," said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. "Criminals continually find new ways to rob us of our good name and good credit, making it critical for Americans to stay updated on the latest protection techniques." Children are 51 times more likely than adults to have their identity stolen, said AllClear ID.With children, the crime goes unnoticed for years and is usually not detected until the child attempts to obtain credit or applies for a job, college or government benefits. By then, the damage is done, said NFCC. Other statistics related to child identity theft, from AllClear ID and the Carnegie Mellon Cylab:
* The youngest victim is only five months old; * About 54% of victims are under the age of 12; * The largest debt accrued with a child's stolen identity: $725,000; * A two-year-old was placed into bankruptcy; and * A nine-year-old was in debt collections.
Thieves are also stealing personal data left on old cell phones. "People are eager to cast aside their old phone in favor of the newest gadget, often forgetting that the old phone held passwords account numbers, PINs and other personal information that is a goldmine to a thief," said Cunningham. 911 Cell Phone joined the PYIW campaign to help consumers safely rid themselves of unused cell phones. 911 Cell Phone wipes the phones clean and returns them to law enforcement officials across the country to distribute free to those in need, such as senior citizens and abuse victims. More than 100 PYIW events will be held this week, with organizations such as credit unions offering ID theft protection handouts, workshops, speakers, cell phone collection, credit report reviews and shredding. Some credit unions are using the events as part of International Credit Union Day, which will be Thursday.