NORFOLK -- A woman is fighting to clear her son's name after he became a victim of identity theft.
The woman, who doesn't want to be identified, said her 18-year-old didn't even know he had been victimized until he went to apply for a loan. That's when he learned it had happened eight years earlier when he was just 10.
"There were multiple derogatory things on his credit (like) cell phone bills from when this kid was ten years old. So there's no way he could have taken accounts out, medical bills. There was a judgment against him as a ten-year-old," she said.
She filed a police report and she has worked for a year to convince creditors that her son was a victim. Eventually, he changed his name.
Child identity theft is on the rise, according to the author of "Bankrupt At Birth." Joe Mason says it's risen 300 percent in the past five years.
Mason is also an executive at Intersections Inc., a provider of consumer and corporate identity risk management services in Chantilly.
"All a thief needs is a social security number to steal an ID," he said.
He explains that while thieves will steal the child's name and other personal information, that's not always the case. Synthetic ID theft is becoming common. That's when only the child's social security number is stolen and a new name is created to go along with it.
"Its logical to say, well don't the banks, don't the credit bureaus know that this is a synthetic identity? Well, unfortunately not," Mason warned.
In a study released by Javelin Strategy and Research, synthetic identities are the most common method of child ID fraud. Most kids are targeted by someone they know, a friend or family member.
Mason said parents should always guard their children's personal information and that includes asking some key questions before filling out forms at the doctor's office, for your child's sports team or at school.
"First ask why the information is needed. Ask them how are they going to protect it and ask them, in the event the data is mismanaged or lost or a fraud occurs in their organization, how are you going to be notified as a parent. If they can't answer those questions to your satisfaction, chances are they don't have a good security policy in place," he said.
Parents should also look out for warning signs that a credit file has been created in your child's name. Red flags include mail from a credit card company or phone calls from a collection agency.
Experts say if it happens to your child, file a police report immediately.