By Beth Weinhouse
Protect Children From Identity Theft
Children are easy prey for identity thieves. While adults may discover identity theft quickly—when they try to get a loan or refinance a house, for example—child identity theft may go on for years and not be discovered until a child is much older and tries to apply for a student loan or establish his own credit. At that point untangling and correcting the fraudulent information may be more difficult.

According to a report by CyLab, at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University, 1 in 10 children in a study of potential victims of a data breach had their social security number used by someone else. In fact, the children in the survey were 51 times more likely than the adults to have had their identity stolen. The youngest victim was just five months old. And the most egregious theft was a $750,000 debt on a 16-year-old's record. That's why it's important for parents of even young children to be aware of the threat and take steps to prevent their children's identify from theft.

How to protect your child from identity theft:

1. Keep your child's social security number private. A child's Social Security number is often used as an identifier when going to the doctor or starting at a new school—and those numbers may be sitting unguarded in a school or medical office file. It's important to only share your child's Social Security number when there is reason for giving the information; and when it is necessary, ask how the information will be protected. Keep electronic records password-protected, and keep paper records in a safe place (and shred them before disposing of them).

2. Check to see if your child has a credit report. Check with a major credit reporting company periodically for a child-identity inquiry to see if a credit report has been established in your child's name. Monitoring this information will help you identify any potential issues with identity theft. The FTC also provides a valuable online checklist for parents who want to prevent or deal with child identity theft.

3. Educate your children. Discuss computer and smartphone safety with your children, as sharing information online can expose personal information that identity thieves can use against you. For instance, a child who writes about a family pet on Facebook and then uses the pet's name as a password is putting their information at risk. Similarly, some scam artists are using online quizzes to get information. An innocent-seeming "How Well Do You Know Your Friends?" quiz may get children to divulge information like mother's maiden name, birthplace, or other details that can be used for identity theft. Ensuring your children understand the risk with sharing personal information online can help prevent them from exposing this sensitive information.

4. Monitor the mail. If you suddenly notice that your child is receiving pre-approved credit card solicitations, financial offers, bills or collection notices, it may mean there's an active credit file—and you should check with one or more of the major credit monitoring agencies immediately.

The goal is to prevent child identity theft long before it becomes an issue in your children's life. If you do find that your child has an active credit file and his or her identity has been stolen, you need to act quickly and report the issue to the main credit reporting agencies as well as the local police department.

Learn more about identity theft protection from Liberty Mutual.

Liberty Mutual is focused on protecting you and your family, and we've partnered with ARAG to give you a special discount on legal protection for all situations in life. Protect yourself against life's legal issues with an ARAG legal plan and live with fewer worries.


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