Shiloh Puckett has had 17 credit cards, been approved for a $42,000 loan, and owes thousands of dollars in credit card bills. Shiloh is just 10 years old and has been in debt since she was 5 because her identity was stolen — in this case by her own mother.
This may sound like an extreme circumstance, but child identity theft — by family members and strangers alike — is growing at record speeds in the United States. The number of complaints reported to the FTC increased by more than half from 6,400 cases in 2003 to 9,800 in 2004.
Meanwhile, child identity theft cases made up just 2 percent of all identity theft cases in 2002. That has since doubled to reach 4 percent in 2004 — the fastest-growing segment. In all, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that 500,000 children fall victim to identity theft every year.