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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection | article

Don’t Fear The Dark — Worry About Identity Theft

Kids can be afraid of a lot of irrational things, like being alone in the dark or the strange bumps in the night that are really only the wind. More often than not there isn't a monster hiding underneath their beds, and those shadows coming in their windows are usually just tree branches, not ghouls. However, some kids get caught up in real life horror stories where the villain isn't a mythical creature, but a real-life identity thief.

It wasn't a dark and stormy night when one child found out he was a victim
For Gabriel Jimenez, his fairy tale took a dark turn when what should've been a big pay day instead was the day he found out someone had stolen his identity. Jimenez had done some modeling work as a child and his mother, Jeri, filed a tax return for her son since he had made an income that year. When Jeri heard back from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), she was informed that someone had already filed taxes using her 11-year-old's Social Security number (SSN).

Once the problem was identified, there was little that could be done
Jeri told the New York Times in a 2007 interview that she went to every resource she could imagine to stop the fraud immediately. She contacted the IRS, the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the local police, but the problem wasn't getting resolved.

After a few years of little help from authorities and government agencies, Jeri requested Gabriel's file from the IRS. It turns out an illegal immigrant had taken her son's number in order to start a life stateside. When Jeri contacted the person who had been fraudulently using her son's SSN, the man offered to give Jeri his tax refund so he could continue using the number to pose as a legal citizen. Though she requested that the man stop using her son's SSN immediately, the problems persisted, and only got worse as Gabriel got older.

Identity theft is unpredictable, so keep an eye on your credit report
Jeri doesn't know how Gabriel's SSN was compromised, but she does understand the repercussions of identity theft first hand. The real monsters out there are trying to ruin your credit score, not jump out and scare you when you're trying to go to bed. Using a credit monitoring service is like equipping yourself with a flashlight, giving you the chance to check under the bed anytime something goes bump in the night.