Child identity theft has been plaguing our nation for decades, affecting countless children. Despite the technological advancements allowing authorities to catch fraudsters more effectively, schemes have gotten so sophisticated that many victims are left without justice.
To show you the many faces ID fraud has taken over the years and its dire consequences, this article shares real-life child identity theft stories every parent should read. You’ll learn how serious this crime is and how to keep your child out of harm’s way both through your own efforts and with a paid service.
How Severe Is Child Identity Theft?
One in 50 U.S. children falls victim to identity theft annually, exposing the combined affected families to a loss of almost a billion dollars. Besides financial consequences, parents face the tedious process of theft remediation and ID restoration.
- A poor credit score
- Excessive debt
- Inability to find employment
While there are several institutions you can turn to for help, some of the damage is irreversible. For example, a fraudulent loan may not be discharged, or your child might be held responsible for certain delinquencies (as you’ll see in one of the stories later on).
With all this in mind, safeguarding your child’s identity until they’re ready to do it independently should be among your top priorities. You’ll learn how to do this right after we explore some real-life ID theft cases.
Five Stories of Child Identity Theft You Should Know About
Among millions of child identity theft cases, a few stand out due to their circumstances and consequences. Below you’ll find stories of crimes committed by some of the most infamous fraudsters:
- Turham Lemont Armstrong
- James Johnson
- Deborah Lester
- Charley Hollin
- Wendy Brown
Turhan Lemont Armstrong
While many child identity fraud cases involve a single victim, some are far more elaborate. Turhan Lemont Armstrong’s case is a good example—the perpetrator ran a $3.3-million fraud for years before he was caught in 2017.
Armstrong used numerous fake identities—mainly children’s—to obtain credit cards and loans he used for various purchases, including cars and several homes. He primarily targeted children who had moved from the U.S., as they were less likely to keep track of their credit.
After arresting Armstrong, the investigators searched all three of his homes alongside two storage facilities. They found lists of other people’s SSNs, a plethora of falsified documents, and hundreds of credit cards under fake names.
The fraudster was charged with various crimes (51 counts in total) and found guilty of all. He was sentenced to over 21 years (259 months) in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $3,305,609.
When Michelle Thibodeau took her son to get his driver’s license, she expected to witness an important milestone in her teen’s life. Unfortunately, she was met with a shocking surprise—the boy seemed to already have a license.
After asking the manager how this was possible, she realized that the existing license wasn’t the worst part. The manager showed her the license in the son’s name, but it had a photo of James Johnson, Thibodeau’s ex-husband.
At the time the fraud was discovered, Johnson was serving a prison sentence for an unrelated crime. Thibodeau found out her ex had obtained the fake license using their son’s personal information years before.
As if this wasn’t enough, Thibodeau’s son also received an alert from the Department of Revenue (DOR) about child support delinquencies. Apparently, Johnson had used the fake identity to avoid paying support for his other children.
Thibodeau contacted the SSA, Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and other authorities hoping to get help. Despite all the reports, the DOR took a part of the son’s paycheck when he found a job, as well as a portion of his tax refund.
To make things worse, Johnson couldn’t be prosecuted for the theft. Massachusetts’s statute of limitations regarding identity theft is six years, which had passed by the time Thibodeau became aware of the fraud in 2003. This goes to show that justice isn’t always served when it comes to child ID theft.
In 1990, Deborah Lester visited her local Social Security Administration (SSA) office and obtained a new SSN using a falsified birth certificate. She spent the next 28 years living under two identities—her own and that of Tina Marie Brandon.
The real Tina Marie Brandon was a girl who tragically died in an accident at only two years old. Lester found out about the accident while researching birth and death certificates, after which she decided to assume Brandon’s identity.
She used the fake identity for numerous purposes, from avoiding speeding tickets to opening businesses and bank accounts. Lester even married under her new identity and became Tina Marie Toch.
Her charade lasted for almost three decades until she was caught with a fraudulent passport. She reached out to her business advisor, who had been managing her fraudulent accounts unaware of the theft. Lester came clean to the advisor, who told her he had to report her to the authorities.
In September 2018, the FBI arrested and interviewed Lester after conducting a thorough investigation. Besides identity theft, she was charged with criminal impersonation and several other felonies.
Charley Hollin’s case also involves a deceased child’s identity, but this isn’t the only disturbing aspect of it. Unlike many identity thieves, Hollin didn’t use his fake ID for financial gain but to avoid being prosecuted for a heinous crime—the sexual assault of a 10-year-old girl.
In 1999, Hollin abducted and molested the girl while she was waiting for her father. By the time felony charges were filed against him, Hollin had already disappeared. He went off the grid by using the identity of a deceased 8-year-old, Andrew David Hall.
Hollin stole the identity 11 years before assaulting the girl and used it to obtain a passport, as well as driver’s licenses in Minnesota, Indiana, and Oregon. He spent years moving between states, so tracing him was a challenging endeavor.
It wasn’t until December 2016 that the FBI managed to track down Hollin. Facial recognition software matched his pre-1999 photo with the photo of a passport in Hall’s name.
A month later, Hollin was arrested at his workplace in Oregon. He was brought back to Indiana and sentenced to 40 years in prison, the final 10 of which he could serve in home detention. Given that he was arrested at the age of 62, he’ll most likely spend the remainder of his life in prison.
In contrast to most criminals, Wendy Brown didn’t have malicious intent when committing ID fraud—she only wanted to relive the high-school years she’d lost. Of course, the motive behind the crime doesn’t lessen its severity, especially considering that the victim was her own daughter.
In 2008, the then-33-year-old stole her daughter’s identity so that she could attend the Ashwaubenon High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Her goal was to join the cheerleading squad and make up for her high school teen years she lost because she became pregnant and dropped out.
During her short time at Ashwaubenon High, Brown attended cheerleading practices, got her locker, and even went to a pool party. The school staff did notice she didn’t look like a sophomore, but they stated her overall demeanor resembled that of a high-school student.
Suspicions arose when Brown didn’t come back after the first day of classes. The school liaison officer launched an investigation, which uncovered Brown’s true identity. Further examination revealed that she’d served prison time for two crimes before the ID theft:
- Burglary in 2002
- Obstruction of justice in 2004
Brown’s mother also added that she had a history of identity theft-like crimes similar to this one.
Sixteen days passed between Brown’s enrollment and her first court appearance. The judge believed a prison sentence would do more harm than good, so Brown was found “not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect” and committed to a mental health institution.
How To Best Protect Your Child From Identity Theft
It’s natural to be concerned for your child’s safety —especially since today’s stories are only the tip of the iceberg. You should take every precaution you can to keep your child’s personally identifiable information (PII) away from prying eyes.
There are two ways to go about this:
- Protecting your child’s information on your own
- Signing up for a paid identity monitoring service
Tips for Safeguarding Your Child’s PII
If you decide to take identity protection into your own hands, you’ll need to implement various security measures, such as the following:
- Protecting your child’s sensitive documents—Store all documents containing the child’s PII in a safe place and ensure as few people as possible have access to them
- Educating your child on ID security—Teach your child not to reveal their PII to strangers online or offline. You should even advise them to conceal it from people they know, as many theft cases show the perpetrator being close to the family
- Checking for a credit profile in the child’s name—Contact the three major consumer credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) to see if your child has a credit profile. The vast majority of minors don’t, so if one exists without a legitimate credit history, it could mean your child has fallen victim to fraud
- Using your information when filling out forms—Provide your identifiers instead of your child’s whenever possible, and double-check requests for sensitive information, like the child’s SSN
- Staying on the lookout for red flags—Watch out for pre-approved credit card offers, notices from the IRS, and similar correspondences addressing your child
Checking the above boxes takes ongoing work and can be time-consuming, which is why many parents decide to put identity protection in the hands of professionals.
Why an Identity Monitoring Service Is a Smart Investment
Over the years, numerous identity protection services have surfaced, helping parents keep their children’s information safe and sound. Signing up for one can be beneficial for busy parents who can’t manage every aspect of ID security themselves.
When you choose professional identity monitoring, you get an expert team dedicated to overseeing your child’s PII online and offline. It’s an excellent way to be proactive instead of dealing with theft once your child’s identity has already been compromised.
Still, not all ID monitoring services are the same—many options are either too expensive or don’t offer adequate protection. If you need a reliable service that won’t hurt your budget, check out FreeKick.
With FreeKick, you can keep the money you save for your children and protect them at the same time.
Save over $10,000 during your children’s childhood with family identity protection from FreeKick:
|Cost per year||$0||$149||$600|
|Savings over 18 years||$10,800||$8,118|
1 FreeKick plans cover two parents and up to six children. The table shows two different plans
2 LifeLock Advantage Family plan for two parents and up to five children. The annual plan is $599.99 and the monthly plan is $59.99/mo, $719.88 for 12 months
FreeKick—ID Monitoring Paired With Credit Building
Powered by Austin Capital Bank, FreeKick is a unique product combining a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-insured (FDIC-insured) deposit account with two services:
- Identity monitoring and protection children and adults
- Credit building and credit profile monitoring for children aged 14–25
Comprehensive Identity Monitoring (Coming Soon)
As soon as you sign up for FreeKick, your child’s identity and PII start being closely monitored through an array of services:
|Service||How It Works|
|Social Security number monitoring||FreeKick monitors all names, addresses, and aliases connected to your child’s SSN. The service also includes true-name and synthetic identity fraud detection, as well as a mapped view of all locations associated with the SSN|
|Dark web monitoring||To reduce the risk of your child’s PII being distributed on the dark web, FreeKick uses the dark web monitoring system to track all internet traffic related to its trading|
|Neighborhood sex offender monitoring||If a registered sex offender lives in your vicinity and uses your address to register under a different name, you’ll get an alert with a report|
|Full-service ID restoration||If your child’s identity is compromised, you’ll receive help from a dedicated restoration specialist. They’ll investigate any alerts, dispute fraudulent activity, and work on your child’s behalf to restore their identity. FreeKick covers ancillary restoration services with a $1 million ID theft insurance|
Identity protection services for minor children also include credit profile monitoring and full-service white-glove concierge credit restoration
Identity protection services for adult children and parents include:
- Credit profile monitoring
- Social Security number monitoring
- Dark web monitoring for personal information
- Up to $1 million identity theft insurance
- Full-service white-glove concierge credit restoration
- Lost wallet protection
- Court records monitoring
- Change of address monitoring
- Non-Credit (Payday) loan monitoring
- Free FICO® Score monthly
- FICO® Score factors
- Experian credit report monthly
Automated Credit Building and Credit Profile Monitoring
Besides helping ensure your child’s information isn’t misused, FreeKick also helps them build a strong credit profile through parent-sponsored credit building.
When you sign up, FreeKick will build 12 months of credit history for your child aged 14 and up and report it to credit bureaus (minors must activate reporting after becoming legal adults). By entering adulthood with credit history, your child can save over $200,000 throughout their adult life.
The best part is—no ongoing action is required from you. FreeKick takes care of everything, so you can invest in your child’s future effortlessly.
Get Peace of Mind in Only Three Steps
You can fortify your child’s ID security and help them enjoy a more stable adulthood in three easy steps:
- Create an Account—Go to FreeKick.bank and choose a plan based on a one-time FDIC-insured deposit. Luckily, FreeKick offers a plan for every budget. You can use the savings you already have for your children to protect them and build their credit, or get started with just a $10 deposit and a small annual fee:
- Free—one-time deposit of $3,000
- $49—one-time deposit of $2,000
- $99—one-time deposit of $1,000
- $149—one-time deposit of $10
- Set It and Forget It—When the account is active, FreeKick will start building your child’s credit history and help protect their PII with the aforementioned services
- Keep Growing—At the end of the 12-month term, you can renew the account to keep enjoying FreeKick’s services, or you can close it and get 100% of your deposit back to the account it came from
FreeKick deposits are FDIC-insured up to $250,000. All plans include premium identity protection for two parents and up to six children and credit building for up to six children aged 14 to 25.
FreeKick doesn’t penalize early cancellations, so you can close the account at any point. Note that if you do it while the child is still a minor, no credit can be reported for the account because credit bureaus only allow reporting for adults.
To protect your children from identity thieves while supporting their future with established, excellent credit, sign up for FreeKick.