She wasn't old enough to see a PG-13 movie on her own, but Lamiqua Nowell of Franklinton, Oh., owed utility companies thousands in unpaid bills, says the Columbus Dispatch. Her grandma was raising four children on her own, living mainly on government assistance and using Nowell's Social Security number to create phony utility accounts to keep the apartment warm and the lights on.
Children increasingly have become victims of identity theft, and officials fear the crime is rampant in poverty-stricken, urban neighborhoods. This trend came to light in a yearlong Dispatch investigation into flaws in the national credit-reporting system. Those who steal child identification are a mix of strangers and relatives. In poverty-stricken neighborhoods, it's often a parent or other family member, or someone with access to the family, who uses a child's information to open utility accounts they can't afford to pay. In fewer cases, someone will trade a child's Social Security number on the streets for money or drugs. Not until they become young adults and try to start a life of their own do the children realize they already have bad credit.