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Money Management (05/11/2008)
Protecting your child against identity theft

Is someone using your childís Social Security number or other personal information to commit fraud? Unfortunately, the number of cases of identity theft committed against children is on the rise, according to the Federal Trade Commission. And parents may be completely unaware until the child is one day denied a driverís license or a college tuition loan because of the bad record that an identity thief has built in the childís name. The Minnesota Society of CPAs (MNCPA) offers a series of steps you can take to prevent your child from becoming a victim.

Wise precautions essential

Identity theft occurs when a criminal uses someone elseís personal information to commit fraud, such as running up credit card bills in another personís name or using their identity to get a driverís license or other false credentials. Adults have been the victims of identity theft for years, but scammers have found that a childís personal information is just as useful in committing fraud. Thatís why itís important to take the same precautions to protect your child's personal information that you take for your own data. For example, donít reveal your childís Social Security number or other personal data without good reason. When someone requests this information, ask why it is needed and what steps will be taken to protect your child's privacy. Make sure the information is kept confidential and in a secure location.

Trust your instincts

One warning sign that your childís identity has been stolen appears when he or she begins to receive solicitations in the mail to open credit card accounts. These offers are usually only sent to people who have established credit records. If your child does not have any outstanding debt, then you should question why credit card issuers would have his or her name. It may be a sign that someone else is running up debt using your childís identity.

Get the facts

To get more information, check with the three major credit bureaus to see if your child has a credit report. The Web site of the Identity Theft Resource Center offers a fact sheet for ordering a credit report for your child. You can find it by visiting www.idtheftcenter.org. However, the Center does advise that parents should not request these reports unless they have a reason to suspect that someone is using their childís identity. Submitting a request will open a report for your child if he or she does not have one, and that will make it easier for a potential thief to use your childís identity in the future.

Protect your information

As a general rule, you should reduce the chances that thieves can obtain personal information for anyone in your family. Keep important documentsó-such as birth certificates and Social Security cardsó-in a secure location. Donít carry your childís Social Security card in your wallet in case it is stolen.

College students at risk

Young children have been the victims of identity theft, but college students are especially vulnerable because they live in close quarters with other students and may not be especially alert to protecting their privacy. They should take care to secure their credit cards or other information and to keep their wallet and important documents in a safe place. If the college uses studentsí Social Security number as their ID number, ask to change it to another number.

Your local CPA can offer advice on how to prevent your family from becoming the victims of fraud. Consult your CPA on any important financial issues.

Information and resources are available to the public on the MNCPA Web site (www.mncpa.org/information) including state and federal tax forms and information and financial planning information for individuals and small businesses. A free CPA referral service is also available on the Web site or by calling 800-331-4288. The MNCPA is part of the national 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy campaign to help Americansí improve financial literacy; information and resources are available at www.mncpa.org/360.



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