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Child identity theft: A hidden but real danger

Thieves use children's information for credit fraud, so don't let it go undiscovered.

Chances are you shred or secure any paperwork that contains personally identifying information, such as your Social Security number or birth date. But do you do the same for your children?

You ought to. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that at least 6% of all identity theft cases involve children. Youngsters' personal information is appealing to thieves who can use it to build a clean credit profile where one doesn't currently exist. Another reason: It takes longer to get caught.

Wastebasket filled with shredded paper

Adults may be actively involved in the credit world, checking statements and scores, but "parents aren't checking their children's credit, so thieves can do more damage over an extended amount of time," says Eva Velasquez, President and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center, an organization dedicated to educating consumers and assisting victims.

The good news is, with a few simple steps, you can better safeguard your children's personal information and pursue any problems on their behalf.

Ask questions

Many schools and extracurricular programs ask for kids' Social Security numbers and other personally identifying information in order for them to participate. Ask why they need this information, and whether it's mandatory. If it's indeed required, "ask them how they will keep the information secure," advises Velasquez. Then determine whether you're comfortable with that level of protection.

Know warning signs

"If you're receiving mail in your child's name that would typically be for adults only, that's a red flag," says Velasquez. Warning signs include:

  • Collection notices
  • Bills or new credit cards
  • Traffic violation warrants
  • Jury summons

Don't request credit reports

Resist the temptation to check for a credit report in your child's name as a preventive measure unless you have a strong suspicion or know for certain that your child's identity has been compromised. "If your child doesn't have a credit file — and they shouldn't — you could actually open one up accidentally by checking it," says Velasquez.

Take action

If you suspect fraud — or can confirm it — contact the Identity Theft Resource Center immediately, toll-free, at 888-400-5530. They'll listen to your concerns and work with you on next steps. You'll also want to contact the FTC to get help measuring the scope of the problem, and then file a report with your local police department.

Promote privacy

It's important to teach children the importance of protecting their own personal information so they don't set themselves up to be victimized. Velasquez recommends teens and parents check out ConnectSafely, an online resource that offers tips for safeguarding your information online.

Get more information at Identity Theft Resources from State Farm®. For added security, look into identity theft insurance.

State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates) is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites hyperlinked from this page. State Farm has no discretion to alter, update, or control the content on the hyperlinked, third party site. Access to third party sites is at the user's own risk, is being provided for informational purposes only and is not a solicitation to buy or sell any of the products which may be referenced on such third party sites.

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