At three months old, a woman was adopted into a new family.
“My adopted mother changed my name to her name,” she says.
Then one day, decades after the adoption, she got a call from a collection agency.
“Asking me to pay a credit bill. I asked her ‘What credit card bill?’ She told me the credit card she mailed me into Georgia. I said ‘I don’t live in Georgia. I live in Baltimore.’”
She checked her credit for the first time and says that wasn’t the only item she didn’t know about.
“Apartments in my name, gas and electric, cable, phone bills,” she says.
The woman says her adoptive mother, who lived in Georgia and had already been arrested for fraud, was stealing her identity to obtain credit.
“I’m an easy target. She has my birth certificate, my social security card. She has copies of everything and we have the same first, middle and last name.”
She filed a police report, signed an affidavit and took her mother to criminal court, but the Baltimore City state’s attorney dropped charges for technical reasons.
In many such cases, victim advocate Russell Butler says children of identity theft don’t find out until adulthood, making it difficult for justice to be served.
“It’s an easy crime to commit,” says Butler. “Hard crime to prosecute, especially for a child who may not find out until 18 years after it occurred.”
“It possibly could have happened when I was a minor, but your credit report only goes back a few years,” says the woman.
A new report shows child identity theft is a fast-growing crime with 142,000 identity fraud cases against minors each year.
AllClear ID says the percentage of victims under the age of five doubled this year and children are 35 times more likely to become victims than adults.
“You can be a victim like me and not know it.”
While the woman didn’t get the outcome she was hoping for in court, she’s still fighting to clear her credit.
“Only three things taken off, Verizon, cable bill and energy. I’m still fighting for the other things.”
Experts warn once a child’s social security number is used for fraud, there could be multiple people using it. In one case in particular, six thieves were using one child’s social security number.