(WXYZ) - A growing number of identity theft victims are not adults, but kids. To make matters worse, they may not find out they've been victimized until years later when their credit is destroyed.
Axton Betz-Hamilton remembers when she was 19 years old and getting her first apartment. But when she signed up for utility service they told her they needed a $100 deposit due to her credit score.
She ordered her credit report, and what she found was shocking.
"It was 10 pages long full of fraudulent credit card entries and associated collection agency entries," says Betz-Hamilton.
Turns out, her identity had been stolen when she was 11. Axton would be well into adulthood before she'd manage to clear her name.
She's made it her life's work to educate others about child identity theft. She's a professor now and says your child's name, address, and birthday are all pieces to the puzzle. And their social security number is the key piece.
"You should limit very much where your child's social security number is shared," says Betz-Hamilton.
Ask questions when it's requested: -Why do they need it? -How do they store it? -How do they get rid of it?
Betz-Hamilton says, "if it's a weak answer like we always just collect it, we always just have it, well then, they don't need it."
Kids also do things to make themselves easier targets putting pieces to their identity all over social media. You can find birthdays everywhere.
A sad reality of child identity theft is something Betz-Hamilton knows all too well. "Child identity theft is often committed by someone who's known to the child."
In Axton's case, it was her own mother. And she didn't discover it until after her mom died a year ago. All these years, she had no idea that her mom was living what she believes now was a double life.
She still grapples with why, but in the meantime, she's dedicated to keeping others from living this nightmare.
"I decided to do something good from the one thing that defined my life to date," says Betz-Hamilton.
A new law in Michigan allows you to put a freeze on your child's credit report with the three credit reporting bureau essentially that means no one can open credit in their name using their social security number.