7/19/2010 Child Identity Theft Increase

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July 19, 2010- Atlanta Journal Constitution

Many face credit troubles at the hands of family members being dashed because they are unwitting victims of identity theft at the hands of someone they know, usually their parents.

It often happens when victims are too young to do anything about it, so it’s a crime that can go undetected for years.

A parent or other relative uses a child’s personal information, including Social Security number, to get a credit card, loan or other account with a clean credit record. That’s identity fraud in Georgia.

When the child enters the business and financial world as an adult, he encounters debt he knows nothing about

“They won’t be able to get a credit card. Or if the debt owed is disproportionate to their earnings, then they can’t get loans. It’s difficult to get a car,” said Michelle Jones, senior vice president of counseling for CredAbility. The Atlanta-based nonprofit, provides credit counseling and education across the Southeast.

“And when you are applying for car insurance or applying for a job, people look at your credit score. The worst case scenario … you have a young adult who is facing filing for bankruptcy on a debt that they never personally incurred,” Jones said.

The Federal Trade Commission’s figures on identity theft show Georgia ranking seventh nationwide for the highest number of complaints over the last three years. FTC breakdowns by age show about a quarter of the complaints come from 20- to 29-year-olds. But there’s no way to say how many are from parent identity theft.

Georgia Office of Consumer Affairs spokesman Bill Cloud believes cases of child identity theft have multiplied substantially in the last few years. Identity theft is a felony in Georgia.

“It’s a growing problem,” said Cloud, who said about 3 percent of identity theft victims in 2003 were children. That number increased to about 5 percent in 2006.

“There’s no reason to think that from 2007 forward, the way the economy is going, that this thing has not been exacerbated further,” said Cloud, whose office now routes all ID theft complaints to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. “It doesn’t have to be a mom or dad. It can be a relative, a grandmother, an uncle. You have the kid’s Social Security number, and you go and set up an account in their name… or their license. And a lot of times people don’t want to prosecute a relative.”

With the persistently weak economy, more people are falling behind on credit cards, mortgages and utilities. And this kind of crime becomes more appealing.

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