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The Bottom Line
 
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Bottom Line: Child ID Theft

Updated: Wednesday, March 20 2013, 01:55 PM EDT
Child identity theft is now the fastest growing crime in the United States, and the damaging effects can last for years.  Dori Marlin breaks down the numbers, and gets to The Bottom Line on how to protect your child's future.

Imagine your 6-year-old or 7-year-old child, hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

"We
have had cases of 2-year-olds declaring bankruptcy, 5-year-olds and
6-year-olds are half a million dollars in debt," says Barbara Green with
the Better Business Bureau.

It's a crime that can go undetected for years, and is spreading fast.

Child identity theft is actually now the "fastest" growing crime in America.

Experts say a child is 35 times more likely to have their identity stolen, than an adult.

Criminals
take a child's name, and social security number - and use it to apply
for loans, credit cards, or even get a work permit.

"If a criminal can get your child's identity when it's born, they can essentially use that identity for 18 years."

Bob Hartle says, he sees it all the time.

"This is probably somebody in Texas working under her identity."

He owns "ID Theft Services" - a company that helps victims clear their name of ID fraud.

"We've dealt with probably 100 cases of children having their identity stolen."

A
national report published in 2012 says, 15 percent of identity theft
victims are 5 years old and younger.  26 percent were between 6 and 10
years old.

Hartle knows the pain first hand.  A criminal stole his identity in 1988, putting him and his wife more than $114,000 in debt.

"He just started living as me," says Hartle.  "Getting credit, buying a house, buying a new car, getting a job."

Experts at the BBB say, although child identity thieves may be hard to catch, there are signs that parents can look out for.

Green
says, "If your child all of a sudden starts getting credit card
applications, that's a sure sign that it's out there somewhere."

Here are some quick tips for parents to protect their children's information:

Check your child's credit report once a year.

Give out their social security number only when absolutely necessary.

Also, be wary about what you or your child posts on the internet.

"Once you put out information, it is out there in cyberspace."  Green adds, "They can sell it, they can pass it along."

And
if those credit card applications or credit reports start arriving in
your child's name, here are some things you should do right away:

Fill out a police report.

Contact the Social Security Administration and the IRS, and tell them you suspect your child's identity has been stolen.

Contact any financial institution that your child - or you - have an account with.

And finally, destroy any information - like letters or mail - with your or your child's name and address on it.  
        
To you, it may just be a piece of paper - but to a criminal, it's an open door to a new life.Bottom Line: Child ID Theft


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