Children are almost the perfect victims for identity thieves: They’re unlikely to monitor credit, they don’t keep track of a bank account and they probably won’t do either of those things for years. The only potential protection comes from vigilant family members-but sometimes those family members are the very ones who abuse children’s identities.

In many cases, when a family member or friend steals a child’s identity, the crime goes unreported. However, statistics show that in of reported instances of , friends and family are responsible. Parents, relatives or friends of the family might use a child’s identity to get a mortgage, apply for credit cards, employment, government benefits and more.

Protecting a child’s identity from those whom you trust the most can feel particularly difficult, but taking preventive steps could make a world of difference. While there’s no need to treat friends and family differently, these tips can lessen the risk of your child’s ID being stolen:

* Guard your child’s . Don’t give it out without first asking how it will be used, how it will be protected, and whether providing only the last four digits is an alternative option.

* Secure documents. Paper records should be filed in a secure location-an in-home safe is a good option-so that visitors to your home can’t easily get access to them. Electronic records should be equally well protected; make sure the sites where the documents are hosted are secure, and use strong, safe passwords.

* Think critically. Consider whether there’s anyone in a child’s life who might need a quick and easy way to turn over a new leaf. Those who are struggling financially, or who have been in trouble with the law, might be desperate enough to misuse a child’s identity.

The consequences of identity theft can last for years, and children affected by it will have a much more difficult time establishing credit. Protection in the present will give them a better shot at a sound financial future.

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