Help Me Hank: Don't let your child fall victim to identity theft

Thieves can use child's 'blank slate' to run up loans, expert says

DETROIT – Are you taking steps to protect your children from identity theft? It may seem like a crazy question, but one study found children are 35 times more likely to become victims than parents. Experts say children are prime targets for identity thieves because they have a clean slate, a clean credit report with no bad loans or missed payments.

Dr. Kate Williams is the director of research at ConsumerAffairs.com. She says identity thieves can use that blank slate to run up fake loans and the thieves know they can get away, undetected, because not many parents are checking their child's credit report.

Williams said she heard about an 18-year-old girl who had $1.5 million dollars in debt in her name that accumulated over 15 or more years.

Thieves among us

What is even more disturbing is that research shows an alarming 27 percent of identity theft victims have a personal relationship with the predator. Parents tell Help Me Hank it's disappointing to hear relatives could try to prey on younger family members.

"These are people you are supposed to be able to trust the most with your information and there's a certain level of betrayal," said Ilana Block, a mother of two small children.

In your family, you may need to watch out for ex-spouses or any relative with money troubles, a gambling problem, addiction, or anyone whose asked for too much personal information. The problem of family identity theft might be even worse that we know.

"Sometimes there are so many emotions involved, and so many issues, they're less likely to get reported," Williams said.

Protecting your children's identities

Here are some simple ways to protect your children's identities.

-Be careful when sharing information with relatives.
-Consider freezing your child's credit report. There's a small fee in the state of Michigan, but it could prevent much larger headaches.
-Keep your child's name off any public documents. It might be fun for your child to have his own magazine subscription, but that's a information that could be sold to third parties.
-Don't share your child's Social Security number with anyone, unless absolutely necessary.
-Don't be afraid to ask a lot of question if someone wants that information? Why do they need it? How will it be protected?

"It's up to parents to protect their children by asking questions. You can never ask too many questions as a parent to protect your child," Williams said.