Protecting your kids from ID theft

Posted by Erica Noonan  July 22, 2010 11:19 AM

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babysocial.jpg
I like to think my capacity for worrying about stuff runs deep and wide.

But here's something I had never thought to be afraid of: child identity theft.

That's right. As if we needed one more thing to keep us awake at night, identity theft targeting children is on the rise.

The problem is that it can go unnoticed for years, until the child applies for their first part-time job or college loan, according to Adam Levin, co-founder of the Arizona-based security company Identity Theft 911.

Child ID theft is still only about 5 percent of the ever-booming business of ripping off the personal information of adults, said Levin.

At least 20 percent of child-centered fraud is perpetrated by someone in the child's life --a parent or relative will use a child's name and social security number to get additional credit cards in an attempt to keep family finances afloat, he said. Sometimes the theft is for less noble reasons, to support a gambling or substance abuse problem.

Levin offered Moms Are Talking About some tips on keeping a kid's credit safe until they turn 18, and are legally able to mess it up on their own:

-- When you check your own credit (this can be done for free annually through any of the big three credit agencies), ask to check your child's as well. Don't ask a friend in the mortgage or car loan business to do this for you, the inquiry could create a file on your child's number that doesn't need to exist, and just makes them more of a victim for fraud.

-- If a school program requests a copy of your child's birth certificate or other personal ID info, ask where the forms will be stored and who will have access to it. Ask if the forms can be returned to you after the program is over.

-- Beware of scams in medical settings. The newest type of fraud involves rings of identity thieves working in medical offices and hospitals smuggling out along confidential patient ID information, Levin said.

-- When your teenager is begging to apply for their first job, don't hand over their social security card without a heart-to-heart chat. Explain why the information has to be protected, and why they should never share or post it on social networking sites for any reason.

Do you regularly check your child's credit? What precautions do you take to prevent identity theft in your family? Leave a comment or drop an email to enoonan@globe.com

(Citizen baby photo from AMW Safety Center)

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about the author

Erica Noonan is chief of the Globe West bureau. Before joining the Globe in 2000, she worked for the Associated Press in Boston. Raised in Wellesley, she has a master's degree in political communication from Emerson College and a BA in political science from Trinity University in San Antonio. She lives in Natick with two energetic children: Dennis, 6, and Lila, 4.

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