ORLANDO, Fla. - The FBI lists identity theft as the fastest-growing crime in the world, and it takes an adult up to a year to even realize they're a victim.
But a growing number of victims are children and often times, they don't find out their identities have been stolen until they're 18.
Channel 9's Jorge Estevez found out what parents can do to stop it from happening.
Cody Zulfer said the state didn't pay for him to get into college this weekend. At 18, Zulfer has terrible credit, but it's not his fault.
"They used my name to apply for an apartment," Zulfer said.
family members, including his own mother, used his information.
Zulfer claims his mother was going through rough times, but he said the situation got worse.
"Once they had the rent and everything, they didn't have enough to pay off bills," he said. "We ended up getting kicked out and the power shut off and everything, so that affects me."
Zulfer had bad credit by the age of 12. And WFTV has learned that child ID theft is a growing crime.
Children under the age of 18 are 50 times more likely to become victims of identity theft than their parents. And often times, strangers target children's IDs.
The Federal Trade Commission reports it had more than 22,000 juvenile ID theft complaints last year.
"It is literally a crime you are going to have to deal the rest of your life," said expert Wayne Ivey.
Ivey has been investigating identity theft since the 1990s and said the crime goes unnoticed because children don't access their credit until their about 18. But until then, their Social Security number is vulnerable everywhere from doctor's offices to schools to sports leagues, so parents need to be more diligent.
"If the doctor asks for your Social Security number, ask, 'Do you really need it?'" said Ivey. "If they do, then ask the next
question: How are they going to protect it? 'After I fill this form out, can you give it back to me so I can shred it? Can I watch you shred it?'"
If your child is a victim of identity theft, it can take you 400 hours to get back their good credit.
So how can the credit agencies help determine if their identity has been stolen?
Since you get one free credit report from each of the three agencies a year, stagger them, meaning check in with one every few months. And make sure nothing comes up for your child, because if there is activity, it might mean someone is using their identity.