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Rochester, N.Y.--Identity theft isn't just affecting adults anymore. More and more, children are becoming victims too.
On Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo warned parents and young adults that children are 51 times more likely to become victims of identity thefts than adults.
According to Lynette Baker of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Rochester, child identity theft cases are not rare.
Research from AllClear ID shows that 10 percent of all children in the U.S. will become victims of identity theft.
"That's mostly because children are assigned a social security number when they are born but that social security number sits idle until they get a job when they are 15 or 16 or when they are ready to go to college," Baker explained. "It sits there idle and someone could steal that number and start using it for their own benefit."
Baker says the increasing use of smart phones and the internetalso makes it easy for people to steal identities.
"[Children] could be giving out their name, their birthday and their addresses which could be associated with their social security number," Baker said.
Baker also explained that thieves target children because it's easier to steal their identity. Essentially, a child's social security number is a blank slate--any name and birthday can be attached to an unused number.
Robert Poles is the coordinator for the Career Pathways to Public Safety program at the Rochester City School District.
As a part of the program, he helps students run their own credit score also to show them how the job application process works.
He says he often finds cases of identity theft.
"When we ran some of the students' credit, they had some deficiencies on it and it wasn't their fault," he explained. "[We found] that family members that had used their social security number and charged something and eventually destroyed [the student's] credit."
Baker says that in most cases of child identity theft, it is a family member or a parent who uses the child�s social security number fraudulently and many times, they figure they will be able to clean up the child's credit report before the child needs to use credit.
"We've been finding that a lot of these kids have bad credit but they never used it themselves," Baker said. "Sometimes it's a parent, but more likely than not, it's an adult family member who has run into trouble and needs to get utility services or something like that and can�t with their own name and social security number."
Robert Poles says most of the students who are victims of identity theft don�t realize how important good credit is until he tells them. He says there are a wide range of emotions from his students who are victims.
"[They ask] 'How can my family do that?," Poles said. "They were surprised. Some were angry, but the good thing about is that they identified it early and they can start to work with agencies to help fix that credit before they go to the job hiring process."
Here are some tips to protect your child's credit: -
Check the child's credit report at least once a year and file a police report if there are any irregularities. -
Watch out for any suspicious mail addressed to your child from credit card companies or debt collection agencies. -
When asked for your child's social security number, ask if it's necessary, how that information will be used and how it will be protected. -
If your child is moving out or going to college, get a copy of his or her credit report.