Experts warn consumers about clever identity theft scams

Children ID theft on rise, experts say

SAN DIEGO - Children's Social Security numbers, medical histories and tax returns are big targets for identity thieves, experts told Team 10.

Identity theft is the top complaint received by the Federal Trade Commission for the last 13 years.

Karen Barney of San Diego did not really know what identity theft was until she became a victim.

Someone stole her Social Security number and opened three cellphones in her name.

"All I could see was $800 of 'oh my God, how did this happen?'" Barney said. "I was totally floored."

Barney got help from the Identity Theft Resource Center in San Diego and later started working for the nonprofit company.

ITRC CEO Eva Velasquez said they receive 10,000 calls a year from people who have had their identities stolen or have questions about it.

ITRC receives the most calls about financial identity theft, which is when someone steals a Social Security number and name and opens new lines of credit with the stolen information.

"They use your credit history, your credit files to gain access to money, goods or services and leave you to pay the bill," said Velasquez.

Child identity theft is when a child's ID is stolen for the imposter's personal financial gain.

Velasquez said parents do not know to monitor it because children are not supposed to have credit.

"They are very lucrative because you can go unchecked for a long period of time and do a lot of damage," said Velasquez.

Medical identity theft is when someone gets medical help using your name or other information or when your medical benefits are being used by another person.

Velasquez says this type of theft is extremely dangerous.

"Now, all of their medical information is mixed in with yours," she said.

Tax ID fraud is when someone uses a stolen Social Security number to file a false tax return and collects unemployment or another type of benefit.

"Right now, we are in the middle of tax time so government benefits and tax ID fraud is a very big issue. It's 25 percent of our cases," said Velasquez.

Velasquez said guarding your personal information like a valuable is the best way to protect yourself against all forms of identity theft.

For more information on the Identity Theft Resource Center, visit idtheftcenter.org.

To learn more about The San Diego City Attorney's Office Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit click here. (Mobile users: http://bit.ly/XEJl1r)

The Better Business Bureau of San Diego and Imperial Counties also offer information and help on identity theft. For more information, click here. (Mobile users: http://bit.ly/11IFnrK)

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