Identity Thieves' Newest Target: Children

It wasn't until she applied for a car loan that she learned her mother had racked up debt, $150,000 of it, in the daughter's name, she said.

When the woman -- who did not want to be identified because she didn't want to embarrass her mother or get her in trouble -- was 8 years old, her mother used her Social Security number to get a credit card. Today the daughter's credit report is 20 pages long, and her mother's name is all over it.

"And I stood in the middle of the car dealership and bawled because I had no idea," the woman said. "It's not something I thought my mom would ever do."

Increasingly, people with access to children's Social Security numbers are using them for identity theft. Sadly, it's usually parents.

But it can also be health care workers or school officials -- anyone with access to a child's records.

When Rebecca Bartelheimer was just a toddler, someone stole her Social Security number.

"I was blown away," said her mother, Michelle. "I never imagined a 3-year-old would have a credit problem."

Andrew Brooke was only 3 weeks old when it happened to him.

"If you're an infant, you're the ideal victim," said his father, Jonathan.

A 7-Year-Old Houseboat Buyer

Children make ideal targets because they often don't find out they're victims until they are older and try to use their Social Security numbers for the first time.

When Zach Friesen applied for his first job, he learned he was on record as having bought a houseboat -- when he was 7.

Now he teaches young people about identity theft.

"We're really naive about it," he said. "There's a huge gap in the system when it comes to learning about credit."

Congress is working on a bill that would track all Social Security numbers of people under 18, so that when those numbers are used to apply for credit, an investigation would begin.

Until such a law is passed, the only thing parents can do to protect their children is keep their Social Security numbers closely guarded, giving them out only at the bank or for tax purposes.

For the woman whose mother racked up hundreds of thousands of debt in her name, it could take a year to fix her credit. It could take even longer to fix her relationship with her mother.

"It's easier to forgive," she said, "A little harder to forget."

ABC News' Dan Harris filed this report for "World News Tonight."