Criminals are stealing social security numbers from people of all ages including babies. They're using that information to get everything from credit cards, to utilities and mortgages.
The saddest part is these innocent victims don't discover they've been a target until years later. That's what happened to Jennifer D. "I had my credit pulled and there were loads of things that I never opened. Most of them were when I was 12,13,14 years old."
Jennifer was 18 years old in 2000, living in Dallas, and about to start college when she decided to buy a new car, but according to her credit report, she previously owned a car that was repossessed. So, the car dealership denied her application.
"They told me I'm sorry you're denied your credit score was in the 500's. I was completely devastated!" Jennifer says she looked further into her credit report to find things like utilities, cable, credit cards and furniture in her name more than $27,000 worth of debt. The person responsible was her mother. Jennifer says her mother told her, "I needed to do what I needed to do to survive. You were my child, so your information was my property."
The Federal Trade Commision reports more than 140-thousand children a year are victims of identity theft. Children are 51 times more likely than adults to have their social security number stolen.
The reason is that children don't check their credit report, so the fraud goes undetected until they're adults trying to establish credit
Lina Burns, an attorney out of Caldwell, says a random check of her credit report while in college unveiled several hundreds of dollars in credit in her name. "I felt violated. It's not any different than somebody coming in and stealing something from your house."
Police say there are a number of things parents can do to protect their children from identity theft, but what if the thief is a parent or loved one? What can a child do to protect themselves. Officer Kelley McKethan says, not much. "I imagine that some of it is under reported because that child doesn't want to get that parent in trouble a lot of times." Mckethan says Bryan PD investigates identity theft cases though very few involve children.
Lawmakers in Wisconsin recently passed legislation called the "Child Credit Protection Act" where parents can take steps to ensure their child's personal information can't be used to open credit until they turn 16. Texas is one of several states considering similar legislation.
Identity theft is a crime! It's a state jail felony punishable by up to 2 years in prison and a 10 thousand dollar fine.
Lina contacted the credit bureaus and the creditors, and within a few months was able to erase the debt from her credit file. After a year of paperwork and help from a consumer credit counseling agency, Jennifer was able to restore her credit going from a 532 credit score to 800.
Follow the links to find out what you can do to protect your family from identity theft.