Colorado

May 5, 2014 9:42 PM by Andy Koen

Children ideal targets for identity thieves

COLORADO SPRINGS - Diedra McKnight didn't know her identity was stolen until she went to apply for food stamps. The 20-year-old was bewildered when the clerk at the Department of Human Services told her she didn't qualify because job at Macy's paid too much.

Diedra doesn't work at Macy's, and whoever does is using her Social Security Number fraudulently.

"We just both kind of sat there in the chairs staring at each other and she was like, oh, well that might mean someone is using your identity," she said.

Diedra filed reports with the police and the IRS only to learn that three different people are using her Social Security Number. Once the identity theft came to light, her mother remember a peculiar encounter with the IRS when Diedra was in kindergarten.

"Apparently, when I was like five or four, the IRS came after me for back taxes because I was working at some plastic factory," Diedra said.

The years of fraudulent credit history taken out in her name has made paying for even basic necessities difficult.

"Having to like go the extra mile to be able to get the utilities in my name was a pain," she said. "I work almost every day so there's not like I have free time all the time."

Detective Joshua Bliss of the Colorado Springs Police Department's Financial Crimes Unit says Diedra isn't alone. In fact, kids are ideal targets for identity thieves, in part, because the theft can go undetected for months or years.

"A child typically does not have any adverse credit or adverse actions, whether it be locally or with a retailer," Bliss said.

The most shocking part: all too often, it's parents who victimize their own children.

"It's very unfortunate, but parents are probably the number one offenders when it comes to child identity theft," Det. Bliss said.

There are steps parents can take to protect their kid's identity from strangers. For starters, Bliss recommends keeping paper or digital copies of identity documents in a secure location, preferably away from home.

Parents can also request a free credit report from each of the reporting bureaus once a year. Children shouldn't have a credit report. If they do, then Det. Bliss says parents should act quickly to close the accounts and report the fraud.

"The process of recovering your identity can take a long time," Bliss said. "The key thing is to never give up and understand that you are your best advocate in recovering your identity."

Meanwhile, Diedra wades through the financial mess others have left for her.

"I can't fully go into adulthood because I've got to fix someone else's problems with my number."

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation spearheads the Identity Theft Advocacy Network in our state. They operate a 24-hour hotline for ID theft victims of all ages at 1-855-443-3489.

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