A Windsor Locks fourth grader is a recent victim of child identity theft, one of the fastest growing crimes in the country.
Hannah Duncan, 8, recalled her mother explaining to her what had happened.
"I kept going, what's that mean? What's that mean? And then I kind of got it, but not that much," Hannah said.
A stranger used Hannah's identity to finance a $21,000 automobile.
A personal information security service called All Clear ID detected the identity theft and notified Hannah's family.
"It's scary and it's frustrating because you'll never know who did it," Brigitte Duncan said.
Brigitte Duncan said their insurance provider notified the family two years ago that a file with Hannah's personal information had been stolen. The insurance provider then offered the Duncan family a free subscription to All Clear ID.
"A year later I was notified there was activity linked to her (Hannah's) social security number," Duncan said.
That's when the family learned about the car purchase and another line of credit opened in Hannah's name. They filed a police report and put a freeze on Hannah's credit record.
Had the identity theft not been detected, Hannah might have run into some financial hurdles as she got older.
"Her credit would have been no good already because we wouldn't have known about it," Duncan said. "It wouldn't have gotten cleared up."
Research shows child identity theft costs families $13 billion a year and the victims are getting younger. According to All Clear ID, theft among kids under 5 has jumped 105 percent from last year and children are being targeted 35 times more often than adults.
The Federal Trade Commission says a thief may steal and use a child's information to get a job, government benefits, medical care, a car or even a mortgage.
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said parents must be vigilant about protecting their children's identity.
"When somebody is deliberately trying to get a child's social security number, it could be because they want to create for themselves a parallel life and it may be years before it's discovered," Jepsen said.
The FTC urges parents to shred letters and forms that include a child's personal information before tossing them in the trash. Delete electronic computer files that are no longer needed. Use strong passwords and anti-virus software while online. Educate children at a young age about cyber security. Also, check whether your child has a credit report.
However, All Clear ID argues credit reports only detect activity made in your child's name and social security number, whereas paid protection services can search all records connected to the number, regardless of name or birth date.
Hannah's identity is back in her own hands and she is no longer on the hook for paying off that car.
"I'm not as worried as I was, so I'm kind of happy about it and glad," Hannah said.
The freeze on Hannah's credit records will lift when she turns 18.