By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Identity theft is a serious crime that can ruin your finances, credit history, and reputation. Plus it can happen to anyone, even children. It may surprise you, but as 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan finds, often family members are to blame.

Axton Betz-Hamilton was 19 when she first requested a copy of her credit report and she wasn’t prepared for what it contained.

She says, “My credit report was 10 pages long full of fraudulent credit card entries and associated collection agency entries.” She learned her identity had been stolen years earlier, when she was just eleven. But the biggest shock was who stole it, her own mother.

According to Betz-Hamilton, “Not only did she steal my identity, she stole my father’s identity as well as my grandfather’s identity. She ruined her own credit and then moved on to ours.”

This was all discovered after her mother had died.

Adam Levin runs Identity Theft 911 and says there are millions of cases like Betz-Hamilton’s. Family members use a child’s name and Social Security number to open account. Since most companies do not cross reference the age, the fraud goes undetected.

Levin says, “It may only surface when a child applies for a credit product whether they’re applying for a student loan or their car or their first credit card.”

The Federal Trade Commission has a guide for how to recover from identity theft and protect your children from becoming victims. You can access that guide by visiting:

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