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Protect young identities

Published 10:20pm Tuesday, January 8, 2013

So you’re careful with your online passwords. You only use automated teller machines in places where you’re confident they haven’t been compromised. You never toss out your mail without shredding anything that might be useful to crooks. You never respond to those emails from Nigeria. And you guard your financial data as if it contains the launch codes for the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

So your identity’s safe, right?

Well, maybe. But as it turns out, your 4-year-old daughter and your infant son might not be in such good shape.

As Americans become more savvy about protecting their personal information from the prying eyes of those who would like to appropriate it — and the victims’ bank accounts and credit scores — for nefarious purposes, the criminals have found a way to continue to pursue their lives of crime: They’re targeting the identities of people so young they can’t even spell FICO, much less understand how it contributes to their credit scores.

A man with Suffolk ties has penned a book designed to help parents protect their children’s identities and therefore give those children the best possible credit scores as they enter adulthood. Robert P. Chappell Jr. says children are 51 times more likely than adults to be victims of identity theft.

Chappell, who recently released “Child Identity Theft: What Every Parent Needs to Know,” filled that book with advice for parents. Among the suggestions:

  • Do not give out Social Security numbers and dates of birth unless absolutely necessary.
  • Do not regularly keep your child’s Social Security card in your wallet or purse.
  • Write down answers to questions at the doctor, dentist and pharmacy, rather than giving them aloud.
  • Teach your child not to divulge personal information.
  • Don’t keep personal information on laptops or cell phones.
  • Invest in a shredder and use it for all information leaving the house.

Parents also should regularly check their child’s credit reports (as well as their own) at www.annualcreditreport.com.

It should be hard to believe that criminals would victimize defenseless children, who might not even know the damage that’s been done for many years. Unfortunately, it’s really not that hard to believe. Therefore, protecting their children’s identity should become one of those things every involved parent adopts as a common practice.

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