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Special section Child identity theft

Gabriel Jimenez's identity was stolen when he was 12. This is Jimenez at 10 years old, seen with his mother, Jeri Marks.

Child identity theft: A victim's story

Jeri Marks of Chicago received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service in 1994. It was a notification that her 12-year-old son's income taxes had already been filed. She called the IRS.

"They said there were amounts that had not been reported on our taxes and that my son's taxes had already been reported," says Marks, who had filed taxes for her son, Gabriel Jimenez, since he began modeling in 1989. "I told them that's not possible. My son's a minor. I do the taxes. Something's not right."

The next year she received the same letter. This time she visited the local IRS office and the situation became clear: Her child was a victim of identity theft.

Child identity theft is a crime that plagues tens of thousands of children each year. Five percent of the identity theft complaints to the Federal Trade Commission have come from people younger than age 18.

Twelve years later, Jimenez, now 24, still grapples with the theft of his identity.

"It's more than a nightmare," says Jimenez. "I have been attempting to purchase a car since I was 19 and a home for the past three years. However, I am always denied for the loans I apply for."

Jimenez says it's been difficult for him to even rent an apartment and set up utilities.

Thousands of dollars in collections and credit accounts, excessive inquiries and addresses for residences where he's never lived have crowded his credit report. Jimenez still spends almost an hour a day going over paperwork, researching laws and making phone calls, all in an attempt to clear his name.

Marks has battled the misuse of her son's Social Security number ever since she received the letter from the IRS.

She even tracked down and confronted the man using her son's Social Security number at his place of work, but she was unable to get a law enforcement agency or the IRS to take action. So the thief continued to use the number.

When Marks visited the Chicago Police Department she said, "I was told that the misuse of the Social Security number was not their job. It was the job of the Internal Revenue Service. They wouldn't let me file a police report because they said it wasn't in their jurisdiction."

Marks contacted the U.S. attorney general's office, but says she was told to contact the Secret Service.

An IRS spokesman said the agency does not comment on individual cases. And since the IRS won't discuss individual cases, there's no explanation for why the IRS didn't track down the fraudulent tax filer.

When the spokesman was asked about the problem of child identity theft, he referred Bankrate to the IRS Web site that provides the IRS policies on identity theft.

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