BOSTON (CBS) – ID theft is one of the fastest growing crimes, and thieves are preying on children more and more often.
Axton Betz, a college student, was shocked when she applied for an apartment and found that a credit review said she was thousands of dollars in debt.
“I was devastated,” said Betz, who had never even opened a credit card, let alone borrow money.
Axton says the thief first stole her Social Security number, and that allowed him to open all kinds of bogus accounts.
This negative legacy never seems to go away.
WBZ-TV’s Paula Ebben reports
“I’m always wondering when the next collection letter is going to arrive, when the next court summons going to appear.”
Studies have found that up to 400,000 children a year could be victims of ID theft.
Bo Holland of All Clear ID says kids are targeted at a rate of 51 times the rate of adults.
Thieves take a child’s pristine Social Security number, which have never appeared in the credit reporting system, and attach a fake name.
They open cell phone or utility accounts and instantly establish a new credit history. That allows them to start borrowing money.
The theft isn’t usually discovered until the child becomes a young adult. That’s the time they seek credit on their own and find a toxic history they had no role in creating.
Holland said the Social Security numbers are often obtained from financial documents, such as tax returns, and medical records.
The best protection is to limit the places you give your child’s Social Security number. Don’t be afraid to ask someone why they really need that number.
Make sure they are taking appropriate precautions to keep that number safe.
Another safety measure is to make sure your computer’s virus protection software is up to date.