News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, June 1, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Imagine your child applies for college, only to find out he or she doesn't apply for financial aid because their credit is in shambles.
Studies show that a child's identity is more at risk of being stolen than an adult's. Their identities are often on a blank slate, and not many parents think to run a credit check for their 5-year-olds.
Helping Hands Director Carmen Landy says this is a problem the abused, neglected or abandoned children she comes into contact with often experience.
"Oh I would say at least half of them will discover there is something on their credit report where we didn't know something was there," Landy said.
Many of the young people at Helping Hands find out they're victims of identity theft when they try and move out on their own.
"They'll have family members that have put light bills or cable bills or cellphone bills in their names and they are not aware of that at 5 or 6 years old," Landy said.
While most of the foster children are victimized by family members, your child's identity is just as much at risk.
"It's a big problem. People really don't realize it until they're grown and applying for a car loan or trying to get an apartment for the first time," said Melissa Whittaker, branch manager at CCCS.
At least one in 10 children will become victims of identity theft before they turn 18 years old.
"As adults we have things that come up all the time that will cause us to check our identity, our credit report, but with kids, they could go a solid 18 years without ever having to check it."
Clearing one's credit is timely and costly. The best protection parents can take is to guard their child's Social Security number and pull their credit report at least once a year. Parents should also make sure their children are not sharing too much information online.