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The governor’s office is warning New Yorkers about the growing trend of child identity theft.

The crime is more difficult to detect than when it happens to adults because the young victim might not even realize it’s happened until years later when they apply for a loan or credit card account and the damage is already done.

If scammers get their hands on a social security number or other personal information, they can create a false identity which is often used to make large purchases or obtain credit cards.

Here are more tips from the state Division of Consumer Protection on how to protect your kids or grandkids from identity thieves:

-Obtain a credit report with your child’s personal information by contacting the three credit agencies. If any activity is detected, immediately file an identity theft complaint with your local police and report findings with the three credit agencies.

o       Equifax: 1-800-525-6285

o       Experian: 1-888-397-3742

o       Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289

-The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of these nationwide credit reporting companies to provide consumers with a free copy of their credit report, at their request, once every 12 months. To order, consumers can go to http://www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.

-Be aware of any suspicious mail addressed to your child. If any credit card offers or debt collection materials contain your child’s name, contact each credit reporting agency immediately as it might be a sign of identity theft.

-If your child is headed to college or moving out on his or her own, request a copy of his or her credit report in advance to verify the information is accurate.

-If a young adult in your household receives pre-approved credit offers, it is important that he or she shred any unwanted mail. Identity theft rates are highest amongst students ages 18 to 24.

-Be careful in providing children’s personal identifying information for after-school activities, tutoring or sports team/ club participation. If asked for a social security number, inquire why is it needed? Isn't there another way to identify my child? How will my child's information be protected? Only reveal your child's Social Security number if you have no other option.

-Talk to your child about the importance of Internet safety, identify what information is personal to your child and work with your child to create the life-long habit of securing his or her personal information.

In March of this year, Carnegie Mellon’s CyLab reported that children are 51 times more likely than adults to be victims of identity theft.

The New York Department of State (DOS) Consumer Guide to Identity Theft is available
here, and information specifically pertaining to child identify theft can be found here. For further information about child identity theft or to file a complaint, please contact the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection at (518)-474-8583 or visit our website at www.dos.ny.gov.

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