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If you have a teen who may be applying for scholarships — or who’s beginning to make plans to move out on their own — their credit can be very important. When we think of identity theft, we often think of an adult whose account has been hacked or lost their wallet, and someone is using their credit cards. But a study at Carnegie Mellon University found that 10 percent of children have someone else using their Social Security Number.

This statistic can be scary because most people don’t even realize their child has been a victim of identity theft until they are about ready to leave home for the first time. John Krebs, the Identity Theft Program manager at the FTC, says a thief can keep that Social Security number going for a number of years before somebody is going to look at it.

This is why scammers prefer targeting your child’s information because they have a spotless credit report and it is less likely to be discovered. The consequences can be very damaging and can take years to correct. It can stunt your child’s opportunity for independence and takes time to follow paper trails to correct their credit report. Also finding the person who did this can be very difficult, especially if it happened years earlier.

One major way you can protect your child’s identity is to freeze their credit. A new Idaho law makes this process free. Also, teach your teen who may be filling forms with their personal information how to protect their identity and what they need to be careful of. A vital step is checking your child’s credit report especially when they turn 16 so you don’t find a credit nightmare right as they are applying for financial aid or housing.

There are signs that your child’s identity may have been compromised. One way to know is if you receive a bill sent to your home in your child’s name or are called by collection agency asking for you child. If this does happen to you and your child, don’t panic; there are ways to fix the problem. The best way to start is by calling each credit reporting company and filing a report that your child’s information was misused.

As an end note, if you do have a child applying for scholarships the Better Business Bureau Northwest and Pacific has scholarships available in each of their regions as well as a region-wide scholarship. For information, visit bbb-scholarship.org/.

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