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WTOL 11 Investigates: Children 35 times more likely to have identities stolen than adults

TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) -

More than ever, your children are the target of scamartists. We are constantly on the lookout for identity theft, but your kids are35 times more likely to fall victim to identity theft than an adult.

Axton Betz-Hamilton was 19 when she first requested a copyof her credit report. She expected a high score, but got exactly the opposite.

"My credit report was 10 pages long full of fraudulentcredit card entries and associated collection agency entries,"Betz-Hamilton said.

She learned her identity had been stolen years earlier, whenshe was just 11. The biggest shock was who stole it - her own mother.

"Not only did she steal my identity, she stole myfather's identity as well as my grandfather's identity," Betz-Hamiltonrecalled. "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 representedvictims just like Betz-Hamilton. He says unfortunately her case is not anisolated one.

"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 socialsecurity number to open accounts, and since most companies do not crossreference the age, the fraud goes undetected.

"Many times it goes unnoticed until they're gettingready to go off to college or to rent there first apartment or obtain theirfirst credit card," Dansack said.

A study by Carnegie Mellon CyLab found 1 in 10 children hadsomeone else using their social security number. One of the challenges here isit's hard to be proactive. It's really more about being reactive. Be aware, andwatch for red flags.

"I think the warning signs are if you start gettingbills and statements for services you didn't receive or products you didn'tpurchase," Dansack said. "If you're getting a denial for some kind ofgovernment benefit. Generally you're going to get some kind of notice fromsomeone that just kind of seems odd. That you shouldn't be getting. That wouldbe the trigger to take a look and contacting the credit reportingbureaus."

Be sure to shred anything you don't need, including medicalrecords. Be careful who you share personal information with. That includespublic schools, little league, summer camp and the like. It's also a good ideato run a check when your child reaches 16 or 17.

"That may be the time to kind of look, or pull a creditreport to see what it says," Dansack suggests. "It would giveadequate time to remedy or correct some of the problems before you really arein a position where you need to do certain things when they become anadult."

The Federal Trade Commission has a guidefor how to recover from identity theft, but when a family member is theculprit, there are extra challenges.

"That fundamental aspect of this woman is my mother,she's there to take care of me, that's been shattered," Betz-Hamiltonsaid.

Her credit score is finally in order, and she has spent muchof her career studying identity theft and is now an assistant professor ofconsumer studies at Eastern Illinois University.

Read the first steps you should take to repair your creditif you discover you've been the victim of identity theft here.

Get Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's advice on dealingwith identity theft here.

Read the Social Security Administration's advice for dealingwith someone using your Social Security Number here.

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