This is a consumer advice column written by the Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana. It appears Thursdays in Business.
A recent study published by Carnegie Mellon University Cylab, a cybersecurity research center, found that children were targeted by identity thieves 51 times more frequently than adults. Better Business Bureau encourages parents to regularly monitor their children's credit report to prevent devastating damage to their future.
This Cylab study indicated identity thieves are targeting young children and using their unused Social Security numbers to steal their identity. Thieves steal Social Security numbers, attach a different name and birth date to it, and open credit cards and secure auto loans, student loans and home mortgages, among other things. Children are an easy target because they typically do not start using their information until early adulthood, when they apply for college, loans or their first credit card.
You can better protect your child's identity by:
•Safeguarding your child's personal information. Keep your child's personally identifiable information, such as his or her Social Security card, date of birth and birth certificate, in a secure spot.
•Sharing your child's Social Security number only when you know and trust the other party.
•Monitoring your child's credit report. As soon as you get your child's Social Security card you should start monitoring his or her report. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com for one free credit report a year for each credit-reporting agency.
•Keeping anti-virus software updated. Some thieves create viruses to search computers for documents containing Social Security numbers.
•Safely disposing of personal documents. Shred all papers that include your child's personal information before you throw them out. Delete computer files that you no longer need, and empty your online trash or recycle bin.
As for everyone else, remember that confidential documents, old cellphones, compact discs, floppy disks and old computer parts can be targets for identity theft too.
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