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Parents, protect your children from identity theft

— As identity theft continues to be a major problem, it has become increasingly important to make sure your information remains private. Identity thieves can use information, such as your Social Security number, causing sometimes irreversible damage to your credit and your future. As the father of a teenager, the current trend of child identity theft is very alarming.

Studies have found that children are 51 times more likely to become victims of identity theft. A child’s Social Security number can be used by identity thieves for many purposes. They can use it to apply for government benefits, open bank and credit card accounts, apply for loans or even rent a home. Many times, these fraudulent uses of information go unnoticed until the child gets older and begins applying for loans themselves, whether it be a loan for a car or even to pay college tuition.

There are steps you can take to minimize the risk of identity theft impacting your children. To ensure their identity is protected, be sure to:

find a safe location for any documents containing your child’s personal information;

avoid sharing your child’s Social Security number unless you are absolutely sure you can trust the party you are giving it to and know why it’s needed;

shred documents displaying your child’s information before throwing it away; and

keep an eye out for mail addressed to your child, particularly mail offering credit cards or debt collection materials.

In addition to those steps, there are also valuable resources available to help safeguard against identity theft. Acquiring a credit report with your child’s information can alert you to any suspicious activity. You can receive one free credit report per year by contacting:

Equifax: 1-800-685-1111

Experian: 1-888-397-3742

Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289

• annualcreditreport.com

It’s also important to remember that many necessary school forms require personal and, sometimes, sensitive information. It vitally important to find out how your child’s information is collected, as well as how it’s used, stored and even thrown away. The law protects your child’s information. Parents should ask the schools to ensure the safety of their child’s personal information and help minimize the risk of identity theft. Parents should also be sure to keep track of any forms mailed from the school.

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