More than ever, your children are the target of scam
artists. We are constantly on the lookout for identity theft, but your kids are
35 times more likely to fall victim to identity theft than an adult.
Axton Betz-Hamilton was 19 when she first requested a copy
of her credit report. She expected a high score, but got exactly the opposite.
"My credit report was 10 pages long full of fraudulent
credit card entries and associated collection agency entries,"
She learned her identity had been stolen years earlier, when
she was just 11. The biggest shock was who stole it - her own mother.
"Not only did she steal my identity, she stole my
father's identity as well as my grandfather's identity," Betz-Hamilton
recalled. "She ruined her own credit and then moved on to ours."
Betz-Hamilton discovered it after her mother had died.
Michael Dansack is a Sylvania attorney who has represented
victims just like Betz-Hamilton. He says unfortunately her case is not an
"Generally it's someone who knows the minor,"
Dansack explains. "Often it can be a relative or a parent, a friend, a neighbor."
These unlikely predators use a child's name and social
security number to open accounts, and since most companies do not cross
reference the age, the fraud goes undetected.
"Many times it goes unnoticed until they're getting
ready to go off to college or to rent there first apartment or obtain their
first credit card," Dansack said.
A study by Carnegie Mellon CyLab found 1 in 10 children had
someone else using their social security number. One of the challenges here is
it's hard to be proactive. It's really more about being reactive. Be aware, and
watch for red flags.
"I think the warning signs are if you start getting
bills and statements for services you didn't receive or products you didn't
purchase," Dansack said. "If you're getting a denial for some kind of
government benefit. Generally you're going to get some kind of notice from
someone that just kind of seems odd. That you shouldn't be getting. That would
be the trigger to take a look and contacting the credit reporting
Be sure to shred anything you don't need, including medical
records. Be careful who you share personal information with. That includes
public schools, little league, summer camp and the like. It's also a good idea
to run a check when your child reaches 16 or 17.
"That may be the time to kind of look, or pull a credit
report to see what it says," Dansack suggests. "It would give
adequate time to remedy or correct some of the problems before you really are
in a position where you need to do certain things when they become an