Identity theft is still the fastest growing crime in America according to the Federal Trade Commission, and more often, crooks are going after kids.
Many don't find out they're victims until a decade after their ID's are stolen and their credit history damaged. But now some kids are finding out it's their own parents who have stolen their identities.
Identity thieves are doing everything they can to get their Social Security Numbers, and if they do they will steal thousands of dollars in their good names. But many kids only have to look inside their own homes to find out who is using them.
"It's called friendly fraud," said Consumer Credit Counseling Service CEO Irma Whitten.
South Georgia law enforcement says they are seeing more cases of parents using their kids financial information to open accounts for utilities, phones, cable service, because they have already ruined their own credit.
"I' ve seen parents that really didn't want to, and then I've seen parents that really didn't care. They just wanted the money, or they just wanted to get the lights turned on without having to pay the two thousand dollar bill they already had themselves," said Dougherty County Sheriff's Office Captain Craig Dodd.
Prosecutors say they have seen it before, but now the crime against children is exploding.
"This is a phenomenon that has happened in the past, and it is growing at an exponential rate now," said Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards.
Identity thieves want a child's clean credit record, and the younger the child the better.
"There are 18 years there that Social Security number could be used. And what happens is, it's a blank slate," Whitten said
Too often the kids don't find out their good credit has been ruined, until they start applying for student loans, credit cards, and jobs.
And by then, fixing the mess is very difficult.
"Well that's devastating. And obviously that requires hours and hours of getting that cleared up," Whitten said.
Authorities are urging kids be taught to protect their personal information at the youngest age.
"Don't put everything about yourself on facebook or other social media," Edwards said.
Prosecutors say In the case of friendly fraud, more young adults may have to decide if they want to file legal charges against their closest family members.
"And prosecute them. Oh, certainly, if the kids smart and the parents are doing this. They should be prosecuted," Dodd said.
Parents always want to safeguard their child's health and safety. Now they are urged to check their child's credit history as well as their own, because crooks are targeting them more than ever.
In June the Social Security Administration started a system to randomize numbers assigned to children, to make it harder for crooks to predict new Social Security numbers assigned to children because of the growing ID theft trend.
Copyright 2012 WALB. All rights reserved.